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Molden eager to use platform God gave him: Honorary survivor to share cancer story at Relay for Life

Josh Molden1 / 2
After his bone marrow transplant on March 31, 2017, Josh Molden had to spend a lot of time in the hospital. To keep himself busy, he put together a lot of Lego sets, including this 2,704-piece Technic Porsche that was anonymously donated to him. (Contributed)2 / 2

Josh Molden is looking forward to this Friday's Relay for Life as it is his first time participating. He is one of two honorary survivors who will be speaking at the event. The other, Patti Dahlheimer of Alexandria, was featured in the July 6 Echo Press.

"It's a great opportunity for me to share my story and use the platform God has given me," said the 19-year-old who graduated from Alexandria Area High School in 2017. "It will be a great way to thank all the people who have been there for me."

His whole family will participate in the event, including his parents, Chad and Pam, and his sister, Koryna.

Molden was diagnosed on Sept. 12, 2016, with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, known as ALL. He was in and out of the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital in the Twin Cities for several months following a bone marrow transplant on March 31, 2017. In October 2017, he received the news he was free of leukemia.

During the first three months after his transplant, Molden lived at the Ronald McDonald House. It was a hard journey, as he said he was tired all the time, in pain and had basically stopped eating.

"The first three months were rough," he said. "But there were so many people praying for me. I am so thankful for all those people because I had it easy compared to others."

After returning home last summer, Molden had to take extra precautions. They included wearing a mask when he was outside, which he said was "super annoying," and always wearing sunscreen and being extra careful with his skin, since he was extra susceptible to skin cancer. Unfortunately, his skin was sensitive to the normal-type sunscreen, but his mom found one that he could use through a Facebook group for leukemia patients.

The year after his transplant, Molden said he had to live in what he called a controlled environment.

"It was tough because I am active person," he said. "I couldn't go to bonfires and I couldn't go swimming."

He also couldn't bring his new golden retriever, Misty, to the lake.

When fall came, Molden had plans to attend Alexandria Technical and Community College, but physically and mentally couldn't pull it off.

"I wanted to be in school, I really wanted to, but I didn't feel ready to go," he said.

Over the course of the next few months, Molden said he finally started getting his energy back. He no longer needed to take naps all the time and he could actually hold conversations with people.

"It was really a big step," he said.

Starting to feel normal

Molden started college in January and on the first day he felt like he did when he was in ninth-grade — nervous and excited.

"I was starting to feel normal and was excited to be able to finally start school," he said. "But I had to really listen to my body because I knew a guy who ended up back in the hospital and it was scary."

As a competitive guy, he had to change his mindset when he felt tired. That was difficult after being in sports for so long, because there he was taught to always push himself just a little bit more.

"I had to really listen to my body and keep myself on track," he said. "Mentally, it was super tough."

Eventually, Molden returned to his old job at the movie theater, which he said was awesome because it made him feel more in control of his life and he was able to make money. And even though he graduated from Alexandria Area High School in 2017, Molden said he contacted his track coaches and asked if he could work out with the team. Because of his diagnosis, he had been unable to participate in sports during his senior year.

"It was like getting that back, like I was able to finish my track career," he said. "It was a humbling experience and I had to keep reminding myself of what I've been through."

Molden's family was granted a trip to Sanibel Island and during the trip, he said that he took time to reflect back on his journey. It was also a time for his family to talk about everything they had been through.

"We were reflecting how Jesus walked with us through this journey," he said. "There were so many people who prayed for us and asked for specific prayers that were answered. We are so blessed by the community of Alexandria. We are so thankful for all the prayers and can't thank everyone enough."

Cancer-free

Hitting his one-year anniversary of being cancer-free was a big milestone for Molden, who thought back about all of the memories and emotions he had during the past dozen months.

"It's just crazy that I am here today," he said, adding that the mortality rate for ALL is just under 40 percent.

As for now, he is off all medications and there are no more treatments awaiting him. He does take vitamins, which he said everyone should do.

This fall, Molden will attend North Dakota State University in Fargo, where he plans to major in software engineering. He will live off campus with a friend, Devin Crowe, and of course will bring his dog.

"I am excited to leave and excited to meet new people and get connected with the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) up there," said Molden. "And also find a new church up there. My parents are great, but I am looking forward to detaching from them.

"I love my parents, but I am ready to grow up. I am just ready for it."

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. She enjoys running and has participated in nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon distances.

(320) 763-1242
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