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Keeping it positive: Attitude aids LP-A teen in cancer fight

Cancer sucks.

Anyone who's experienced it or been close to someone who has knows this is true. But one teenager is proud to let anyone and everyone know how he feels about his cancer. And that it's not going to break his spirit or disrupt his life more than it has to.

Josh Huesman, 15, is a ninth grader at Lake Park-Audubon and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma on Oct. 28.

"All in all, Josh is just one of those 'good kids,'" his aunt, Rachel Lerum, said. "He is kind, modest, funny, gracious, smart, and so very brave. An inspiration to us all. He is a perfect reminder of what is good and hopeful in this world."

To fully get the background on Josh's Hodgkin's diagnosis, Lerum said it's best to refer to her sister, Josh's mom. On Josh's Caring Bridge website, Elizabeth Huesman describes her son's disease discovery like this: "In August of 2011, Josh was helping his dad, Brian, with a lot of physical labor like splitting and hauling logs. His neck started to get wider and at the time everyone thought he was getting a 'weightlifter's' neck from all that hard work.

"By October, Josh's main exercise was long distance running he did as a member of the cross country team at Lake Park-Audubon. With the more intense chores behind him we couldn't figure out why Josh's neck didn't get smaller; in fact, one side of his neck seemed to be getting a bit wider and lumpier.

"After a lot of Internet searching and asking advice from family members, we brought Josh to his regular doctor, Dr. Anita Jonason, at Essentia Health Clinic in Lake Park on Thursday, Oct. 27. Dr. Jonason drew some blood to be tested for mono and did a throat culture to check for strep throat, although Josh didn't show symptoms of mono or strep. Many phone calls later, Dr. Jonason referred Josh to Dr. Nathan Kobrinsky, pediatric oncologist, at Sanford Health in Fargo.

"Josh was admitted into Sanford hospital on Friday, Oct. 28. Dr. Kobrinsky told us Josh had cancer. He believed it was T-Cell Leukemia or Hodgkin's Lymphoma, the latter was the preferred diagnosis. Josh's X-ray that night indicated it was most likely Hodgkin's."

"The next morning, Josh had numerous procedures while under anesthesia: a biopsy of the lymph nodes in his neck, a small amount of his bone marrow extracted and a port put in the right side of his chest. Later that day, it was confirmed he had Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

"Dr. Kobrinsky believed that the cancer was at stage 2A, which meant we caught it early, but a PET scan would need to be done to confirm that belief. Steroids were administered the same day through his new port in order to shrink the swelling in Josh's neck, which was constricting his airway."

Since then, Josh has gone through chemotherapy, just finishing up four rounds at the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo.

Lerum said Josh had three days of treatment one week, one the following week, and then one week off. Repeatedly.

"He bravely accomplished a four-round victory, and we just found out today (Tuesday) that he will not be needing medication, as his doctor (Dr. Kobrinsky at Roger Maris) told him and his parents today, he has an 85 percent chance of being cured. That was a victory in our eyes and hearts," he said.

Regardless of his battle, cancer hasn't broken Josh's spirit.

"Throughout this entire process, Josh has remained true to himself," Lerum said. "Josh is a quietly powerful kid and he fought this battle very true to his personality."

He did not miss school unless absolutely necessary, and if given the choice, would have kept his battle with cancer a secret so as to not steal attention from anyone else, she added.

Josh did as much as he could to keep his life -- and the life of others around him -- as normal as possible.

"Throughout most of the process, he tried to remain as positive as possible and encouraged others to do so. His quiet strength was so inspiring," she said of her young nephew.

"He was given a 'Cancer Sucks' T-shirt for Christmas and wears it proudly."

As Lerum speaks passionately about her nephew and his bravery, she said it's important not to forget the rest of the family that has been working through the cancer process as well. Josh's older brother, Jacob, and younger sister, Brianne, have been very supportive of their brother, she said.

The family, she said, has "stuck together and become an even stronger family unit. They are a great team, always have been, and I have been moved at how they all have made a commitment to 'pay it forward' and help others in need."

She said the family has been positive, before and throughout Josh's diagnosis and treatment, and that attitude has made a huge difference.

Lerum has helped organize a benefit for Josh and his family, which is scheduled for Saturday in the Lake Park Legion. There will be a silent auction with over 150 items, and a raffle with some large items including a raffle for a $1,200 travel voucher or a 30-06 Remington Rifle.

Some of the other items on the auction include sports memorabilia, overnight packages in Detroit Lakes and Fargo, concert tickets, quilts, jewelry and much more.

A chili feed and silent auction start at 4:30 p.m., with the silent auction ending at 7:45 p.m. Karaoke begins at 9.

There is also an account for Josh Huesman set up at State Bank of Lake Park, PO Box 449, Lake Park, MN 56554.

"If anyone attends the benefit and has any questions, they can look for many of the volunteers wearing the 'Cancer Sucks' T-shirts," Lerum said.