By Jen Bakken
DELANO, MN Students in Susan Brasket’s class at the Delano Community Education Center had a special visitor April 24.
The preschoolers welcomed 4-year-old Will Pogue and his mother, Jamie Pogue, a 1996 Delano High School graduate, with a song and a room full of smiles.
The students then gathered around a table full of glitter, glue, and other art items to make luminaries for the Delano Relay for Life taking place Friday, July 31.
With his love of baseball, and anything with wheels or engines, Will is like most boys his age with the exception of one thing cancer. He will be honorary Relay for Life chai this year. In fact, he will be the first child to ever have this honor in Delano.
It all began after Jamie (Rome) Pogue and her husband, Wes Pogue, moved with their two children, Athena and Will, to Arizona.
While in Arizona, Will was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). He also tested positive for Minimal Residual Disease (MRD).
Only about 10 percent of leukemia patients get MRD, an abnormal chromosome caused by the leukemia.
“Most kids with ALL have an 80 percent survival rate after five years,” explained Jamie. “But in Will’s case, it’s 70 percent because the MRD makes the disease harder to treat and takes longer.”
With just under two years in Arizona, the Pogues decided to move back to Delano to be closer to Jamie’s family, a large network of friends and huge support system.
In December, the Pogues received a wonderful gift just in time for Christmas Will is in remission.
Currently, he continues to get chemotherapy treatments every week, and they are hopeful he will remain in remission.
If things continue to go well, by September, the treatments will change from weekly to monthly for three years of maintenance.
“The maintenance treatments give kids a better chance that the cancer won’t return later,” said Jamie. “For me, it was a relief to reach remission.Even though it can come back, we feel much better where we are standing now.”
And where they are now is on the chemotherapy roller coaster, she explained. Some of the medications make Will sick and, though there are good days, there definitely are bad ones, too.
When Will’s blood counts drop, he gets tired, his legs feel heavy, and they cannot chance him being exposed to viruses or infections.
This means Will can’t go to school or have playmates over, and he runs the risk of bleeding or bruising.
Fortunately, Jamie is a stay-at-home mother, and can be there for Will, a ECFE preschooler, and his sister, Athena, a second grader at Delano Elementary School.
“As time has gone on, she (Athena) understands he has cancer, but to her it’s the same as strep throat or having a cold,” Jamie said. “She wonders when it will go away. Will, he doesn’t really know any different and he’s just a little trooper.”
Jamie is excited about the Relay for Life and feels it’s her family’s way of giving back.
“Treatments have come so far in the last 20 years, just think of what could happen in the next 20,” she said. “The strides are amazing and that’s the point of the relay, so the American Cancer Society can fund these types of research.”
Not only is Will the honorary Relay for Life chair, but Jamie has a Relay for Life team, as well. Called Will’s Warriors, the group of Will’s supporters has already raised almost $3,500.
Jamie is also co-chairing, along with Holly Schrupp, the survivor committee. There will be a dinner for cancer survivors at the Delano American Legion Sunday, July 12. For more information, contact Jamie at (763) 344-4076 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Caringbridge site, www.caringbridge.org/visit/willpogue, is regularly updated by Jamie, an ongoing bracelet fundraiser continues through www.mychristianmarket.com, and the bracelets will also be sold at Will’s Warriors campsite at the Relay for Life.
Will has been accepted by the Make A Wish Foundation, and Jamie admits that he doesn’t understand he can ask for anything in the world.
“He asked for a remote control monster truck,” she smiled. “Or to meet Mickey Mouse.”
Will and his family have been able to experience some neat things since his diagnoses such as getting up close and personal with baseball and hockey stars, and other special activities.
However, the family would give up those few lucky days, if it meant Will didn’t have to struggle with this disease.
Sometimes, family members and friends comment on how strong the Pogues are, but Jamie believes they are no different than anyone else.
“You’d do the same thing for your child or loved one,” she said. “We are thankful that Will’s outcome is what it is right now. There will be more ups and downs, but at the end of the day, we feel super blessed. It all goes back to the relay it’s what we can do to give back.”