Family members and co-workers were stunned when Duane “Dewey” Raue was diagnosed with terminal stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Raue was too young to have cancer, they thought, and he basically was a healthy man who didn’t smoke and rarely drank.

“This literally could not have happened to a better man,” said Celina (Hanson) Kucera, his cousin and co-worker at Wiechman Pig Company in Fremont. “He was the epitome of health. He only went to the doctor once every two years for his CDL physical. He never smoked, hardly drank, exercised, was active with his kids and ate pretty healthy. It was literally a blow.”

Raue and his wife, Tara, received the news in October 2011 that he had the most serious stage of cancer. Stage 4 means the cancer has spread to distant organs.

“He has it in the pancreas and the liver both, and spots in his spine too,” said Leo Hanson, Raue’s uncle and the general manager of Wiechman Pig where Raue has worked for 17 years.

Raue remained active with the company until about a month ago, although his workload gradually tapered off.

Some of the early symptoms of pancreatic cancer are often mistaken for less serious and more common maladies.

“He was having a lot of stomach pains and then it moved into his lower back,” Kucera said. “He went to the doctor, and at first they thought it was probably an ulcer or acid reflux. Then they decided to draw blood and that’s when they found out that his levels were just off the charts. They scheduled him for a CT right away.”

He went to see an oncologist, had a biopsy done, and has been battling ever since.

Described as a humble and quite man, Raue, 42, has endured surgeries and more than 40 rounds of chemotherapy.

“They’ve made hundreds of trips to Omaha for treatments and doctor visits, therapy and surgery,” Hanson said.

Raue also went to the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Chicago for a consultation.

He is rehabilitating at Nye Legacy after an unexpectedly long hospital stay.

“He just spent 10 days in the hospital in Omaha,” Hanson said. “They put a pain pump in him. It was supposed to be an overnight stay and then go home, but his blood counts dropped drastically because he had chemo the week before.

“He wants to have another round of chemo yet, but he has to get stronger after having this pain pump installed,” Hanson said.

Throughout the ordeal, Raue and his wife, Tara, have relied on friends to help transport their children to various activities, said Wendy Murphy, a friend and co-worker.

Son Austin, 15, is a sophomore at Fremont High School, and daughter, Morgan, 10, is a fifth-grader at Johnson Crossing Academic Center.

“Thank goodness some of Austin’s friends come by to take him to church group or baseball practice or wherever he needs to go,” Hanson said.

Austin Raue’s Nighthawks baseball team from last year was together for seven or eight years, forging close ties between the families, Murphy added.

“The baseball team families have for quite some time been supplying meals one night a week,” she said.

Wiechman Pig employees have also made meals for the family.

A benefit will be held for Raue next Sunday to help the family deal with mounting medical bills and other expenses.

The event, from 3-9 p.m. at the Eagles Club, 649 N. Main St., will include a meal of pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs and polish sausages for a freewill offering. Hormel donated the pork.

There will also be a bake sale, a live auction and a silent auction.

The live auction slate includes an engraved Whitetails Unlimited Marlin .22 semi-automatic rifle, Nebraska football and College World Series tickets, free golf rounds, trip packages, and a football autographed by Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, among other things.

“We have a lot for the silent auction too,” Hanson said.

Donations can be made at First State Bank and Trust Co. in care of Duane Raue Benefit, and the Dodge County Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is providing additional funding.