Relay For Life chairmen selectedPatty Berger has been trying to get Chuck Kruschke to serve as the honorary co-chairman of the New Richmond Relay for Life since last year. This year the New Richmond farmer agreed.
By: By Jackie Grumish, New Richmond News
Patty Berger has been trying to get Chuck Kruschke to serve as the honorary co-chairman of the New Richmond Relay for Life since last year. This year the New Richmond farmer agreed.
Kruschke, along with TJ Helgeson of Hammond, will serve as co-chairman on June 8-9 at the New Richmond Middle School track.
Kruschke was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010, just a few years after his son, Pete, overcame his own fight with cancer.
“My wife made me go get a physical and that’s when they discovered my PSAs(Prostate-Specific Antigens) were rising,” he said.
Kruschke was scheduled for surgery in January and nine months after doctors thought he was cancer-free, the cancer came back.
“That was more scary than the initial diagnosis,” he said.
Helgeson, a Baldwin native who currently lives in Hammond, said he was surprised to learn of his diagnosis.
“I was playing in an alumni basketball tournament and the next day I wasn’t feeling really good,” he said.
After finding lumps in his neck, Helgeson decided to wait it out in hopes that the lumps would go away.
“I let them go for two or three weeks before going to the doctor,” he said.
Eventually, after being transferred to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., Helgeson was diagnosed with two forms of leukemia – Acute Myeloid Leukemia and Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
Just two months after being diagnosed, Helgeson married his fiancée, Renee, on July 16, 2010.
“We were going to get married in August anyway, but this worked out with the timing of my stem cell transplant,” he said. “We didn’t want to wait until the end... we didn’t know if there would be one.”
He said Renee, who lost her father to leukemia years before, was his support through the entire diagnosis and treatment.
“She had already lived it and been through it all,” he said. “She had been through the complications of it. She was my angel.”
Helgeson said he owes his life to his other angel, his sister Tanya Lofgren.
“I have one sister and she was a perfect match for my bone marrow transplant,” he said. “It’s not very common that they’ll find a perfect match like that, but she was.”
Helgeson said he got involved with the local Relay for Life event last year.
“I decided to get involved after having the word cancer stuck to me,” he said. “Last year was my first year.”
Kruschke got involved several years ago through his wife’s 4-H group, which is responsible for filling the luminaria bags for the event.
Kruschke said he’s been to about eight Relay for Life events. He said one of the reasons he agreed to be an honorary co-chairman of the event was to say thanks to the Relay for Life organizers.
“They’ve been putting time in for years and we’re the ones reaping the benefits,” he said.
Kruschke said throughout his treatments — surgery and 36 radiation treatments — and his experience with cancer, he’s been amazed at how supportive people have been.
“I got so many cards,” he said. “A lot of them were from people I didn’t even know.”
“I don’t think I’d be alive today if not for the support,” he said.
Helgeson said that support is one of the driving forces behind his accepting the honorary co-chairman position this year.
“This is an opportunity to stand up and fight,” he said. “This isn’t about me, it’s about the inspiration you get from others. People will be diagnosed in the future – people are being diagnosed today. At Relay it’s really uplifting to see the survivors and give hope to those that might take my trail.”