In December 2011, Linda Herberg started feeling some pain.

“I was actually lifting some totes with decorations for Christmas,” said Herberg of Redwood Falls.

Knowing that the pain was not usual and was not going away, Herberg went to see her physician. Her initial visit was inconclusive, with the thought that she may have pulled a muscle.

As the pain worsened, she made a second visit.

“They did a chest x-ray, and everything was fine,” said Herberg, adding she was then given some pain pills.

Continued pain led her back for a third time. A CT scan was ordered.

That was May 3, 2012.

“It was a Thursday at 5 p.m. when I got a call from my primary physician,” Herberg said, adding she was told the results of the scan were “not good.” 

Herberg, who was born and raised in Iowa, came to Redwood Falls in 1983, and after years spent as a stay-at-home mom, Herberg went back to school to earn a degree in medical assistance.

For 29 years, Herberg worked in the business office at the clinic.

“I was a nurse’s aid in high school, so being in the medical field was always in me,” she said.

Being around medicine, Herberg had heard the cancer word plenty of times. Now she was hearing it for the first time from a new point of view – hers.

“They found a mass on my left kidney,” said Herberg, “and that is when we started talking about cancer.”

Diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, Herberg was told her cancer had metastasized.

“What I didn’t understand is why I was having pain on my right side when the mass was on my left kidney,” said Herberg.

What they discovered is that the cancer had moved in her body and was actually eating away at one of her ribs. That, said Herberg, was a bit of a blessing in disguise, as she said they may not have ever found the cancer until it was too late if it were not for the pain she was experiencing because of the rib damage.

Herberg was sent to the University of Minnesota where she was seen by an oncologist in the urology department.

Herberg said she was being seen by the best people in their field, and she feels she has been given the best treatment possible throughout her experience with cancer. Ultimately, her kidney was removed.

Following recovery Herberg began receiving radiation treatments.

Throughout her time at the University of Minnesota, Herberg was able to stay at Hope Lodge, which is a project funded through the American Cancer Society and Relay For Life.

The treatments appeared to be working; things seemed stable.

Then in November 2013 Herberg began experiencing headaches. As the headaches worsened, Herberg also began experiencing tongue swelling.

So, she went back to her physician, and an MRI led to the discovery of a lesion on her brain.

Herbert went through what is known as gamma knife radiation treatments. That procedure converged radiation on the brain lesion.

That treatment also worked, and life went on for Herberg.

It was in March 2015 when Herberg began experiencing decreased levels of energy.

“I was exhausted all of the time,” she said.

The lack of energy turned to nausea, headaches and swallowing issues, and Herberg was back at the doctor.

“I was just in a fog,” Herberg said.

Her oncologist had another brain MRI done, and following the MRI Herberg started her trip back home. As they were driving, Herberg said she got a call from the hospital.

“We were told to turn around, because they had found a mass on my brain stem,” she said.

Back to the hospital they went, and a surgery was performed that removed the mass, which was followed by more radiation.

After a very hard few years, life has gotten better for Herberg, who has been stable since.

“I go and visit my oncologist every three months, and everything is stable,” said Herberg.

Herberg said she has been on a long journey, but that was all made a lot easier by the care she received.

“I love my oncologist,” she said.

The treatment Herberg has received locally has also been very good, she said.

“What really got me through all of this was knowing that Kevin (her husband) has been by my side every step of the way,” Herberg said with a smile.

Herberg said after the mass was removed she had to learn to swallow all over again, and when her healthy kidney crashed she started doing dialysis. Yet, she knows life is good, and things could be much worse.

“I never would have dreamed anything like this would have happened,” said Herbert, adding had this occurred even a decade ago she would not be here to tell her story.

All of that she attributes to the successful research being done through the American Cancer Society and the funds being raised through events like Relay For Life.

Herberg said she had been on a team for a few years and has continued to support Redwood County Relay For Life. She feels honored and humbled to have been selected to serve as the 2018 Relay For Life honorary chair in Redwood County.

“I think it is important for people to hear my story,” said Herbert, adding if nothing else it can give others who receive a cancer diagnosis some hope.

Doctors are not sure why Herberg ended up with kidney cancer. She added the risk factors for it are smoking, age, obesity and a family history.

It is often described as a silent type of cancer, as it goes undetected quite often until it is too late.

“When you go on a journey like this you find out just how strong you really are,” she said.

In addition to support from family and friends, Herbert said it is her faith that helped her through what she admitted was a challenging time in her life.