Community pulls together to help locals fighting cancer
Anyone asking Rugby 7th grader Haylee Jo Jundt if she’s a fighter gets an immediate “yes” from her.
But most people don’t have to ask. She’s often at practice for the Rugby Ice Hawks at Al Wentz Ice Arena, geared up in a padded green uniform and helmet, slapping a puck down the ice with her hockey stick, pushing past opponents in her way.
Haylee Jo says she chose hockey “Cause it’s aggressive.”
Last month, another “aggressive” thing became a part of Haylee’s life cancer.
Haylee Jo, together with her parents, family and friends, hopes this particular piece of aggression won’t stay with her long.
“She has Stage 2 A Hodgkin Lymphoma. There’s actually another name – bulky disease, which means she has masses that are large,” explained Haylee Jo’s mother, Leann Jundt.
According to a study cited on a National Institute of Health website, Haylee Jo’s illness has a better chance of being eliminated with both chemotherapy and radiation; with chemotherapy alone, it can be a stubborn enemy.
Haylee Jo receives treatment at Roger Maris Cancer Center at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo.
“They say we’re on a 21-day plan, and we have four of those. After those get done, we will have radiation,” Leann said.
“It’s a chemo (regimen),” Leann added. “Like, day 1,2,3, she has chemo. Day 4 she has a shot at Roger Maris. Day 1,2,3,4, she will always be hospitalized in Fargo. Day 4, she gets a Neulasta shot at Roger Maris. That’s to get her white blood cells back up. And then, we go back on her day 8. We go back for another chemo treatment. She does not have to come back until day 1 of the next cycle.”
This addition to Haylee Jo’s daily schedule is relatively new. Before October 20 of this year, her life was much less complicated.
That day, “She went hunting with her grandpa, and she noticed swollen lymph nodes in her neck,” Leann said.
Haylee Jo went to Heart of America Johnson Clinic the following Monday, where Tammie Harder, FNP, ordered tests and a C/T scan.
“By Wednesday, we were on our way to Fargo. She (Harder) did a wonderful job. I will never be able to thank her enough,” Leann said.
“On October 26, she had the biopsy done; on October 29, we got word that we had to back. She had a PET scan on the 30th, and she also had a bone marrow biopsy that confirmed it was not in her bones,” Leann continued.
Since Haylee Jo’s diagnosis, Leann said of her daughter: “She’s doing very well. She has amazing friends, and her class is very close. And the eighth grade class is very close. She has a lot of eighth graders who she’s friends with. Rugby’s a very good community.”
Friends and community members pulled together to raise money for Haylee’s fight.
“The Soil Conservation District did a fundraiser, and split the proceeds between us and Callan (Dockter),” Leann said.
“There was also Karen Melgard is selling lefse at the (Relay for Life) craft fair, and she’s donating a dollar from her lefse sales to us and Callan also. There’s a church group (from Rugby’s First Lutheran Church) selling coffee and hot chocolate the Mission Experts,” she added.
“People have been we’ve had people stop by to give us cookies, and chemo kits. It’s been great.”
Rugby’s community spirit to fight cancer isn’t a new thing; the Relay for Life walk against cancer is a familiar tradition that brings out hundreds not only for the walk itself, but also for fundraisers associated with it, like the Fall Craft Fair held last Saturday at the Rugby Armory.
Relay for Life organizer Laurie Odden said although this year’s craft fair featured two booths devoted to raising money for Haylee Jo’s fight, and skull surgery for Callan Dockter, a child who does not have cancer, the main focus for the 49 vendors attending was raising funds for the Relay for Life.
“We had 441 people at (the fair)”, Odden told the Tribune. The Relay for Life usually takes place in the summer, “but that’s not set in stone,” Odden noted. “We might change it up next year. We’re going to kick off January with some new ideas. There’s more to come.”
Although the Relay for Life and American Cancer Society raise money for cancer patients across the country, individual cancer patients often benefit from money raised for costs associated with treatment.
One local patient, who learned he had a type of lymphoma around the time Haylee Jo Jundt received her diagnosis, requires treatments in Rochester, MN at the Mayo Clinic.
Rick Srur, a lifetime member of the Rugby Volunteer Fire Department and Pierce County employee, “has a face that just lights up when you see him,” according to one of his many friends, Stacey Schmaltz. “He’ll be the first to help out when we have a wrestling fundraising stand at the fairgrounds. He would always come out of his way to go to my kids’ graduations. And when we knew he was diagnosed (with cancer), he said to me, ‘I’ll be sure to go to your kid’s graduation.'”
Schmaltz organized a bake sale, held November 21 at the Coffee Cottage, “just before Thanksgiving I thought that would get more sales,” she said.
Schmaltz read from Srur’s caringbridge.org website: “He was diagnosed with diffused, large, B-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma with double expressor.”
The diagnosis came after two doctor visits for respiratory symptoms beginning in August. Last month, tests revealed tumors in his left lung and pancreas, which would eventually require treatments at the Mayo Clinic.
Schmaltz said Rick’s friends “found a plane (and pilot) to help,” but fuel costs would add up, and “he can’t be at work for 5 months. It’s just him and his mom at home, and he takes care of his mom,” she added.
Schmaltz said 100 percent of all proceeds from the bake sale would go toward costs Srur incurred in his battle.
Rugby volunteer firefighter Don Schmaltz told the Tribune the Rugby Volunteer Fire Department will host a benefit breakfast at the Rugby Eagles December 2 from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Srur was not available for comment; friends said he probably preferred to focus on healing and day-to-day life.
As for Haylee Jo, she said she preferred to put her focus on hockey. When asked if she had a message for the community, she said, “Thank you for your support.
“And come join our team. We need more players,” she added before she skated onto the rink.
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