Madison Rahlf of LS —‘Fighting like a girl’

Madison Rahlf (Photo submitted.)

Madison Rahlf (Photo submitted.)

By Sarah Stromseth-Troy, TPD Staff

LIME SPRINGS – The community of Lime Springs, along with Howard County residents, are coming together to support a 13-year-old girl fighting Acute Lymphcytic Leukemia.

Madison Rahlf is the daughter of Jim (Sara) Rahlf of New Hampton and Tina Rahlf (significant other Russ Theis) of Lime Springs. Her siblings and step-siblings include: Kelly Rahlf, age 11, Dylan Rahlf, age 9, Penton Theis, age 1-1/2, Gracie Rahlf, age 2, and Mason Theis, age 11.

All of the children attend Howard-Winneshiek School in Cresco. Tina Rahlf works at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah, and Russ Theis owns Russ’ Repair in Lime Springs.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Tina Rahlf recalls the first indication something was amiss with her daughter’s health: “In the first week of July, Madison started saying how tired she was and mentioning about the number of bruises she had on her body.” She was taken in on July 6, and was immediately sent to Saint Marys Hospital (Rochester, Minn.) to the Pediatric Hematology/On-cology area to be evaluated.

She continued, “After bone marrow biopsy, labs, echocardiogram, spinal tap, and X-rays, Madison was diagnosed with Acute Lymphcytic Leukemia on July 10th. That same day, she received her first chemo treatment. She was sick with this first treatment but the next three were much easier with the correct anti-nausea medicine. She received four treatments total.”


Rahlf continued discussing her daughter’s treatment.

“Aug. 7, they re-evaluated how she was doing with labs, spinal tap, bone marrow biopsy, and a doctor’s appointment. They hoped that on day 29 (Aug. 7) that her leukemia count would be zero. She had a very minimal count under microscopic review, not bad but (they) were hoping for zero.”

She continued, “We had been in Rochester since July 6 and had not returned home until just last night (Wednesday, Aug. 14). She cannot start her next course of treatment until her platelets are at 75,000 and her white cells are at 750,000. The reason that we had been in Rochester so long is because her white cells were so compromised by the leukemia and chemotherapy, that they wanted us to stay within 20 minutes of Rochester at all times. Tuesday was the next time she got labs, spinal tap, doctor, and possible start of her new chemo. She will have to do chemo for the next two years at least.”

Fund-raising events

Rahlf said the family has taken part in numerous events to raise funds and awareness for her daughter.

“We have had several wonderful events to raise awareness and money for Madison. Heidi and Joe Trouten put together a stand at Russ’s shop for Sweet Corn Days. They sold koozies, bumper stickers, magnets and necklaces.”

She continued, “Candy Niewoehner and Jessica Curtis had bracelets made with Madison’s name on them and are still selling them. Shannon Pisney and Kaylee Thomas had T-shirts made with ‘Team Madison’ and a hummingbird on the front and ‘Fight Like a Girl’ on the back with Madison’s softball number. Those can always be ordered through Shannon Pisney and are coming out of O’Henry’s in Cresco. There has been so much support from so many wonderful people; it’s amazing.”

She described additional awareness events.

“Russ and I hosted an event called Russ’ Repair Rocks 3. It’s our third year and as part of that event we had the fund-raising stands but we added the head-shaving party in honor of Madison.

“We had 20-plus people shave their heads for Madison. No money was involved or donations, except the hair if it was long enough. Just the support for her was enough.”

She said, “Carrie Hinders was our beautician and shaved everyone’s heads. We had adults all the way down to babies. It was an amazing and touching day. Madison was not able to be there because she had to stay in Rochester, but got to see pictures and was truly touched by the turnout.”

The Howard Cancer Association (HoCA) recently assisted the family with a grant.

Going home

Finally, the family heard good news: “Madison was seen again in Rochester and had labs done and saw one of her doctors at Mayo, and her labs were finally high enough that she could come home. You could see the relief in her face and I did a little celebration dance, although it was in the office where no one could see us; I didn’t want to embarrass the 13-year-old. We were able to pack up and leave the Ronald McDonald House and come home. Madison was so thrilled to see the scenery outside of Rochester; she said she couldn’t wait to sleep in her own bed.”

‘Never take anything for granted’

Rahlf praises family and friends for their support.

“Russ, the kids, friends, and co-workers have all been amazing, always checking on us and seeing if we need anything and calling us to ask how Madison is doing. They are also always asking how we are doing. If I could give any advice, accept the love and support of those who truly want to give it; they know what you need, even if you don’t,” she said.

“Never take anything for granted. Never. So much can change in one day.”

As to how residents of Howard County can help, Rahlf said, “I would say to check the T-shirts out that were made for Madison or any merchandise sold for her. Mostly, just pray and think warm thoughts. That’s what would really help. A huge thank-you to Russ Theis, Heidi and Joe Trouten, Candy Niewoehner and Jessica Curtis, Shannon Pisney and Kaylee Thomas, Carrie Hinders and our bald crew, and all who have helped us in every way we could imagine up to this point and beyond. We know we can count on all of you. We love you very much. We love Madison and she will overcome this.”

(A donation bucket is on display at C US Bank—Lime Springs for anyone wishing to donate.)



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