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Cornhole tourney benefit set for the Jans family of Fulda

Alaina Jans, 6, was diagnosed with leukemia on May 11.

Alaina Jans poses for a portrait.
Alaina Jans poses for a portrait.
Submitted photo
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FULDA — Her wide grin and freckles haven’t changed, but Alaina Jans, 6, has been through a lot since she was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia on May 11.

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She has endured hospitalizations, chemotherapy and steroids, and she even had her head shaved on Thursday after her vivid orange hair started to come out in handfuls.

“Right now she’s doing really good, but she gets tired really easily,” said her mother, Jenna Jans, who also shaved her head to help Alaina feel better about it.

Jenna, her husband Kyle and their five children have been living with cancer for months, spending significant time and money driving to Sioux Falls for Alaina’s chemotherapy treatments and getting things that help her be comfortable or safe, such as sunscreen, hats and bows.

Meanwhile, the community has rallied behind the Jans family, supporting them through a very difficult time — and that support will continue Saturday, with a benefit cornhole tournament and silent auction at Brewster Legion Post 494.

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Participation in the tournament is $60 per team, and the winners will receive half the entry fee, with the rest going to the Jans family.

Signups start at 10 a.m., and the four rounds of round robin begin at 11 a.m. Then play will be split into two divisions. The Legion will serve food and beer, and a silent auction will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Jans family gathers for a photograph, including Alaina Jans, front row, second from the left.
The Jans family gathers for a photograph, including Alaina Jans, front row, second from the left.
Submitted photo

“It is children-friendly, and there will be some children’s items in the auction,” said Karstin Mollema, of Fulda, who is organizing the benefit along with Jake Mischke and his sister Carrie Mischke.

One of the silent auction items is a fishing-themed basket that includes a folding chair for a child, plus Swedish fish candy and goldfish crackers.

“I think it’s going to be good,” Jake said of the benefit.

Living with cancer

Alaina’s cancer discovery began with pain.

“She was in a lot of pain. Her legs hurt, it started with her back hurting, and we didn’t know why, and we kept taking her in,” Jenna said. “And one night she kept getting fevers, and she was just bruising a lot for no reason.”

A trip to the emergency department and then a blood test revealed that Alaina’s platelets were low, and the family was told to go to the hospital in Sioux Falls.

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“So we went there at 2 a.m.,” Jenna recalled.

It took a month and a half or two months of seeing doctors, including pediatricians, emergency room physicians and a variety of specialists, before she was diagnosed with leukemia. From there, Alaina was an inpatient for about a week and, as she had responded well to treatment, she was able to go home.

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She still had to return to the hospital in Sioux Falls every week for chemotherapy, delivered by lumbar puncture, a phase of treatment that Alaina completed just this week. Currently she’s taking at-home chemotherapy in the form of pills.

“We’re not sure exactly what the next phase holds. They only tell you one phase at a time,” Jenna said.

There have been other hazards along the way. At one point, Alaina got COVID-19 and had a kidney infection too, and stayed in the hospital for another week.

“She was bored. She had a lot of things to do — a lot of her friends and family sent crafts and stuff, so she had a lot of things to do but a lot of times she didn’t want to do them because she was tired,” Jenna said.

Plus, her chemotherapy regimen included steroids, which made Alaina hungry as well as angry.

“Right now she’s doing really good. She’s back to being herself again right now,” Jenna said.

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Even though she tires easily, she still loves swimming, and that’s helped with some of the effects of the steroids too.

“We take it day by day, I would say,” Jenna said. “We have honestly taken it really well. My brother had this (leukemia) when I was a kid… he made it. He’s okay now… it wasn’t like ‘this is a death sentence’ or something.”

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Mollema said she hopes the community can help alleviate some of the family’s financial burdens.

“I’ve been massively impressed with how the community has come together, and not just our community, but communities near and far,” she added.

The Jans family has greatly appreciated the community support.

“It’s been really nice to have people in your corner,” Jenna said. “We’re really grateful for everything that everybody has done or said.”

Related Topics: FULDAEVENTSBREWSTERPEOPLE
A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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