MINNEAPOLIS - If you ever needed proof whether laughter truly is the best medicine, then look no further than Hans Johnson.
Dr. Paul Thurmes is Han's oncologist. He looks at scans of Han's liver from August of 2015. More than 20 tumors. All originating from Han's stage-four pancreatic cancer.
"When we see someone with that much cancer, usually I think we really don't have much time," said Thurmes.
Dr. Joseph Leach was the oncologist who originally diagnosed Hans in 2015. It's a day when at least briefly, the laughter stopped cold.
"He said three to six months without chemo, six to 12 months with chemo. I was like 'oh geez. I need a drink!" Johnson said laughing.
He got that drink and then went to work. Fighting any cancer is a full-time job, but pancreatic cancer is by far the most difficult and deadly. Johnson was determined to laugh his way to a miracle.
"Yeah, people talk about their bucket list. The only thing on mine was to see the Vikings win the Super Bowl, how can I make that happen?"
Johnson was also determined to ring that bell at Minnesota Oncology. The bell symbolizes a cancer patient's successful treatment is finished.
"When we would see other people ring it, it was very emotional. I would start to cry. You're happy for them but, in the back of your mind you wonder, will we ever get there almost to the point where I thought we ever would?"
Every cancer patient is different. While most people can't tolerate an extremely strong chemotherapy for an extended period of time, Hans found that he could. And he did. Along with his incredibly positive attitude, something happened in April of last year. Something no one expected.
"Sometimes we throw around the word miracle, casually, can we use it here? Yeah, yeah, I can't explain it how well he's done, you could call this a miraculous response," said Leach.
The tumors in his liver and pancreas began to shrink and shrink some more until believe it or not, his scan a few weeks ago was clean.
Hans' doctors are at a loss for words, except two: complete remission.
"In the original study on chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, it was about 0.5 percent on chemotherapy who had a complete remission," Thurmes said. In other words, 99.5 percent of people diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer will never know what Hans is feeling right now.
One of those people? Todd Hansen. Hans' best friend, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four months before Hans.
Hans is here, Todd is not.
"I'll never say I've beaten cancer, but I think right now I have a better chance of having something else kill me than what I was told would kill me, you know, a year and a half ago," Johnson said.
He admits everything feels better and tastes better. Even his laugh feels better. For some unexplained reason, Hans Johnson was given a second chance. He wants people to know, no matter what you're facing in life, there's always hope.
"When I would meet with newly diagnosed pancreatic patients, we talk about the statistics, but I can tell them, there's this guy and this guy had the same thing and he's doing great so the treatments can work really well and it's worth fighting," Leach said.