Recovering from her fifth surgery in less than two years and largely spending time hanging out at home is not where Jackie Van Liere thought she’d be at 65 years old. She is fiercely independent, had long owned her own business, and has otherwise worked incredibly hard at everything she’s ever put her mind to.
But the Colman resident feels blessed these days to simply be alive.
When the Moody County Enterprise asked who might have a unique story of gratitude this holiday season, Jaime Hybertson, her daughter, messaged the paper.
“You asked about a unique story of something to be thankful for? We’re so grateful for my mom…with her, it’s mostly the fact that she’s with us still,” said Hybertson.
Van Liere, Hybertson went on to explain, was diagnosed two years ago with a brain tumor. It took doctors more than a year to realize what was going on.
“We literally didn’t know if she was going to make it,” Hybertson added. “Her surgeon wasn’t going to take it (the tumor), he was just going to do a biopsy, but that turned into an 11 hour surgery. He said if he took it, she could be paralyzed or blind. She had to relearn how to talk and walk and all of the comprehension stuff — so she’s not paralyzed or blind, but she had to learn everything over from scratch. We had PT and OT in the house for months. It’s so awesome what she’s accomplished in two years.”
Van Liere just had surgery to replace both hips in 2020 when the tumor, a Ganglioglioma, was discovered. Ganglioglioma are extremely rare and account for approximately 1% - 2% of all brain tumors. More than 95% of all cases are considered low-grade and usually do not recur after removal, but given the size and impact of Van Liere’s tumor, they continue to monitor her brain. She currently returns to Mayo Clinic every six months for ongoing scans.
She was also diagnosed recently with Meralgia paresthetica, a condition that causes tingling, numbness or pain in the outer thigh. She’s got a device implanted in her back to help control the pain and her legs.
And just a few months ago, she was back in surgery to repair a torn achilles tendon.
“She had to sell her bar, which was originally my grandfather’s, after 13 years. Hef’s Bar and Grill, it was her life,” said Hybertson, of her mom.
Her diagnosis and recovery could have gone one of any number of ways. She believes the same work ethic that she approached life and her business with is behind her remarkable recovery. “She’s regained so much in the past two years. The fact that she is still here, we’re so thankful for. We’re also so grateful for everyone in the Colman community that’s stepped in to help, whether it’s been taking care of her cat, helping to get the mail, even taking care of her home or mowing. That’s a lot of it too, what we’re grateful for, is how communities like this come together.”
Van Liere can’t thank everyone enough, both the community in which she grew up in, and her children.
“Give it to me God, because I can take more, I guess,” she said, with a nervous laugh. “I don’t know. I’m so very grateful, especially for the kids, for Jaime and Dan. Jaime has been my driver, I still haven’t driven to Sioux Falls in two years. I drive a little but .. I’m just grateful to be here. It’s been a rough go and still is, but I’ve come a long way.”