Volume 126, Number 33
His presentation probably saved the life of a student
The following article concerns Minnewaukan native Brian Halvorson, a 1987 graduate of Minnewaukan High School. He is the son of Dale and Mavis Halvorson of Minnewaukan. His wife, Rita is the daughter of Ronnie and Becky Thompson of rural Minnewaukan.
BY PAULETTE TOBIN Grand Forks Herald
A Grand Forks middle school teacher who was treated for a deadly skin cancer has turned his "why me?" moment into "why not me?" by sharing with young people what he’s learned about the dangers of overexposure to the sun.
One of his talks in Park River just may have been a lifesaver.
Brian Halvorson, a physical education teacher at South Middle School, grew up in Minnewaukan where he worked for years as a lifeguard at the pool. He never used sunscreen and never really thought about protecting himself from sun exposure, he said.
Around Christmas 2006, he noticed a red dot on one cheek that he thought was a pimple. He didn’t see a dermatologist until the following June. The spot was small and the doctor wasn’t alarmed. But when the tests came back, Halvorson learned he had melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Halvorson had surgery to remove the growth July 7, 2007. Two months later, doctors found an enlarged lymph node in his neck and a second surgery showed the cancer had spread.
That’s when things really started to get scary. Halvorson was referred to Mayo Clinic. A scan at the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo found more cancer in his neck. If it had spread to his spine, Halvorson was told, he had a less than one-in-five chance of surviving for more than five years.
"They did an MRI on my spine and, thankfully, the first test was wrong," Halvorson said. "I still went 24 hours thinking I wasn’t going to live."
At Mayo, Halvorson underwent a neck dissection, in which they removed lymph nodes and the parotid glands that make saliva, followed by radiation treatments.
"You don’t want to, but you always ask, ‘Why me? Why me?’ When I sat down for radiation, it came to me that I could have prevented this," Halvorson said. "Because what the doctors told me was all my damage was done when I was a lifeguard and never protected myself." Halvorson remembers thinking: "I teach kids. I need to tell them about prevention."
So, when Halvorson went back to work, he began to ask school administrators if he could talk to students about melanoma, about how overexposure to the sun and tanning beds are major risk factors and how melanoma is detected and treated.
In May, his talks took him to Park River High School. Halvorson had taught in Adams until 1999 and had taught driver’s education in Park River for several years, so he had connections with school officials in the area.
One of the students who heard Halvorson speak was Jay Jelinek, a senior who played football and basketball and who’d had skin issues of his own. When he was 13, he’d had a suspicious mole removed. It had turned out to be nothing. But for the past year, his mother, Kathy Jelinek of Pisek had been after him to see a doctor about some newer moles.
"He talked about the different moles and what they’d look like if they were melanoma," Jay Jelinek said, remembering Halvorson’s talk. "I had some like that on my back."
A few days later, Jelinek asked his mother to make a doctor’s appointment.
"He always thought he didn’t have time," Kathy Jelinek said. "He was so involved with his sports and practice. And one day he said, ‘Go ahead and make the appointment.’ I don’t know if something was telling him or what, but I’m so happy he did."
Why so happy? Because one of Jay’s moles was malignant melanoma. But a trip to Rochester, Minn. confirmed that it had been discovered in time for it to be removed before it spread.
"They told me that it was a shallow case, not too deep into the skin," Jay Jelinek said. "They could remove it without having to do radiation or anything like that." They recommended that he see a dermatologist every three months for the next year.
Without hearing Halvorson’s presentation, he wouldn’t have known what melanoma is, said Jelinek, 18, who has begun fall football practice for UND where he’s a freshman.
"I definitely use a lot more sunscreen now and avoid the sun as much as I can," he said of how all of this has changed his life. "That’s pretty much it. I haven’t stopped doing anything I normally do."
Still, the Jelineks feel thankful for what they’ve learned. Lyle Jelinek, Jay’s father, puts it this way: "Regardless whether you think it’s serious or not, go have it checked out."
Halvorson said he’s happy for Jay’s outcome and looks forward to giving more talks to students. It’s all part of what he calls the healing process. His wife, Rita likes to tell him that he’s always on his soap box, he said. "This October 4, it will be two years that I’ll be cancer free," Halvorson said. "The big goal is two years. If you get to two years, your chances of survival go up. I go back every three months so they can test and get on it right away."
There’s a lot of satisfaction and some pride, too, in knowing he’s helped people. A couple weeks ago, he walked into a Wendy’s restaurant where a young woman took his order.
"She said, ‘You talked to my class and I want you to know, I’ve worn sunscreen every time I went out this summer.’ Teens who spend a lot of time in the sun or in tanning beds don’t realize they’re at risk, he said. "The damage isn’t going to show up tomorrow," he said. "It’s going to show up down the road."
This article originally appeared Saturday, Aug. 14 in the Grand Forks Herald and is reprinted with permission from the Herald.
Minnewaukan native Brian Halvorson, a teacher at South Middle School, underwent treatment for a deadly type of skin cancer in 2007.
Halvorson now talks to students about melanoma and the dangers of overexposure to the sun. (Grand Forks Herald photo by Sarah Kolberg)
City shut down
A lightning strike on a transformer a quarter mile west of Minnewaukan left the town without power from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on September 8. Otter Tail Power Co. personnel are shown installing a new transformer which had to be trucked in from Wahpeton. Because city officials were concerned about sewer backups, the water system was shut down so people couldn’t put water in the sewer system when the pumps were unable to operate. The water tower was not empty, as was previously reported.Phones which required electricity were also non-functional. Most businesses, the school, courthouse and federal offices were forced to close for the day.
Vets group donates to vets group
The Devils Lake Voiture 457 of 40 et 8 recently made a $100 donation to the Gunnerud-Dietrich American Legion Post 86 of Minnewaukan. The Devils Lake veterans organization decided to help the Legion with its unexpected expenses of more than $9,000 when the heating system in its building failed and had to be replaced with a new propane furnace and off-peak electric heat. Left to right are Legionnaire Mark Motis, who made the request for funds; 40 et 8 Chef de Guerre Dennis Riggin; Legion Commander Steve Rohrer; and Glenn Soper, 40 et 8 treasurer.
Hags on Nags take annual ride
Participants in the 7th annual Hags on Nags trail ride August 15 were, left to right, back row, Nancy Rusk, Lori Keller, Karen Kenner and Lorissa Green. Middle row: Wanda Bullinger, Lisa Volk, Connie Ambers, Laurel Rohrer, Janine Gigstad, Jennifer Benson, Sherri Engkvist, Lola Metcalf and Penny Pasillas. Kneeling are Cindy Ziegler, Jessi Knatterud, Robin Rosendahl, Nancy Abrahamson and Mary Ann Keller. Not pictured are Katie Fossen, Bonita Knatterud and Andrea Arneson.
TGU Titans tame Benson County Wildcats in 38-12 homecoming loss at Maddock September 11
Homecoming was held for the Benson County Wildcats last week. Student councils from the three schools — Leeds, Maddock and Minnewaukan — sponsored daily activities and the week culminated in the football game with the Towner-Granville-Upham (TGU) Titans on the Maddock football field Friday, Sept. 11.
The Wildcats got off to a shaky start in the first half. According to Coach Jeff Manley, poor tackling by the defense and miscues and missed blocking assignments by the offense hurt the team.
Manley pointed out there was a bright spot in that the boys only had two penalties compared to nine in last week’s game, and tackling improved in the second half. Matt Swanson led the team in rushing with 57 yards on 11 carries and Drew Lauinger and quarterback Brad Nelsen connected on a nice touchdown pass in the second quarter.
This Friday’s game with Wells County in Fessenden will also be a tough matchup. Work on learning offensive plays and proper tackling techniques will be the focus of the Wildcats’ practices this week.
Stats for the 38-12 loss to TGU:
TGU 16 22 0 0
BC 0 6 0 6
TGU: Tyler Thorson 20 yard run; Daniel Syvertson pass from Thorson.
TGU: Thorson 11 yard run; Ian Keller run.
TGU: Thorson 2 yard run; Brad Bethke pass from Thorson.
TGU: Keller 70 yard pass from Bethke; Thorson run.
BC: Lauinger 16 yard pass from Nelsen; run failed.
TGU: Trevin Hall 4 yard run; pass failed.
BC: Nelsen 39 yard run; pass failed.
Ian Keller (#6) of the Towner-Granville-Upham (TGU) Titans tries to get around the corner and into the end zone, but Matt Knudson (#44) and Brad Nelsen (#27) of the Benson County Wildcats have other ideas.
The two thwarted Keller while Blake Darling (#20) held off the other Titans.
The Maddock pep band, consisting of junior and senior high musicians, provided pre-game tunes as well as playing school songs and the National Anthem at the homecoming game.
North Star Community Credit Union hosted the homecoming tailgate party at the east doors of the Maddock School. Joann Bergrud hands a Helen Schmid of Oberon her taco-in-a-bag on a Frisbee while in the background Mary Engh prepares the next order.
Thirteen ninth grade members of the A.S. Gibbens FFA Chapter of Maddock received the official FFA Student Handbook, sponsored by the Rugby branch of the Farm Credit Services of North Dakota. The handbook outlines what the FFA is, what is in the FFA for each member and how each member can make the most of their FFA experiences. Farm Credit Services has sponsored the FFA Student Handbook for more than 30 years. Left to right, front row, are Katherine Sears, Katie Rice, Katelynn Engh, Sara Schwanke, Jessica Johnson, Chelsey Weigler and Marty Kueffler. Back row: Clark Doornbos, Andrew Pranke, David Yri, Zachary Eyl, Jaden Kallenbach and Eric Broten. (Written by Karl Kenner, Maddock FFA reporter)
Married in Norway
Members of the wedding party are, left to right, Sissel Rudmingen (cousin); Adrian Chew and Lorien Rice, sister of the bride; newlyweds Rebecca Lofft and Ola Magne Haugo; Maybelle Ellen Holk, grandmother of the bride; and Lora Lee, mother of the bride.
Students study 9-11
Laurie Pranke’s fourth grade class at the Warwick School learned about the terrorist attack on the US on 9-11, 2001. Their assignment was to research the event on their laptops and write an article using the information they found. Mrs. Pranke said "they were too young to remember that tragic event so I mainstreamed actual footage of that day and as the students watched it was evident the profound affect it was having on them." Shown here raising the school flag are, left to right, Shania Georgeson, Weylin Azure, Jayrel Guy, Trayson Feather, Kasa Lohnes, Sage Bertsch, Julia Hill, Raymond Peltier and Laurie Pranke. Not pictured are class members Seanna Georgeson and Mark Lufkins.