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Perham girl arranges benefit for mother battling cancer

Samantha Lange, a senior at Perham High School, is planning a benefit for her mom to help offset the $1 million price tag that she says came with her mom's battle with cancer. Connie Vandermay/FOCUS

"Why my mom?"

This is the question Samantha Lange, a senior at Perham High School, asked Pastor Carl Noble as she tried to cope with her mom's cancer diagnosis last November.

"Why not her?" was the pastor's response - and it marked a turning point for her.

"It really opened my eyes," Samantha said as she shared her story in an interview last week.

"My mom is funny, outgoing, loves to be around family and friends. She's a hard worker and good spirited. All qualities I admire," Samantha said.

Her pastor's statement helped her concentrate on

things she could do to help bring back the mom she loved, like planning a benefit for her to help offset the $1 million price tag that came with battling cancer.

In November of 2011, Jody Lange was diagnosed with Burkitt's (B-Cell) lymphoma, a fast growing non-Hodgkin's cancer.

Jody left her job at Mark's Fleet Supply and headed to Sanford Health in Fargo to begin a battle for her life.

She had surgery to remove an 11-inch tumor and underwent heavy chemotherapy.

During the five month ordeal, Jody hit many rough patches. Some side effects to the chemotherapy included swelling of the brain, seizures and lack of kidney function. She was in intensive care for 75 days, struggling to stay alive. At one point her platelets were so low that she would bruise with the lightest touch, Samantha said.

Though the family had to take safeguards, like double gloves and masks while sitting at Jody's bedside, they made frequent trips to Fargo during Jody's five month stay at Sanford Health.

Recently, Jody was told her cancer was in remission. And last week she was able to leave the hospital to continue the healing process closer to home.

While Jody regains her strength, she will live with her parents in Deer Creek, whose home is easier for Jody to get around in than the split-level house in Perham that her husband and daughter reside in.

Because of lack of kidney function, Jody will continue dialyses treatment three times a week in Detroit Lakes and physical therapy sessions in Perham to regain strength for walking.

Samantha's benefit plans began as a simple t-shirt fundraiser. Samantha designed the front and back of a t-shirt and started offering them to friends and family, selling 179 at last count. This effort soon evolved into a full-fledged benefit.

With help from her grandparents, Bruce and Gloria Anderson, and her dad, Joe Lange, the benefit plans rolled together within a month.

Samantha spearheaded the silent auction aspect of the benefit, contacting businesses and individuals for support.

"I was afraid of being turned down at first," Samantha said. But her confidence grew as more and more people were willing to donate.

"Nobody said 'no,'" Samantha said. "I always liked Perham, but after seeing how generous people are it raised my liking."

Samantha said the school was a great support to her, as well. A number of teachers and staff helped her by listening to her problems, or connecting her with the right people.

Mary Karkela, family and consumer science teacher, said in a phone interview that, "She (Samantha Lange) is truly a shining example and inspiration to me."

Karkela said Samantha has handled everything well. She works as a CNA, keeps her grades up in her classes, runs to Fargo to visit her mom and, on top of all that, plans a benefit.

"Despite her mother's setbacks, she kept plodding along," said Karkela. "Staying positive and responsible."

Samantha said this experience has opened her eyes to the medical field. She plans on going to Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Detroit Lakes for her nursing degree next fall.

Thrivent Financial has agreed to partially match the donation dollars.


When: Sunday, April 29

Time: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Where: St. Paul's Lutheran Church

*Free will donation for BBQ lunch and many items offered in silent auction