The symptoms started in late October 2016 with unexplained fevers and night sweats.
His homeostasis was completely out of whack.
Then the teen noticed a lump on the left side of his neck.
Many more would follow.
His mother took notice of the lumps, started doing some research and took him to MedExpress Urgent Care in February. Following that visit, the poking and prodding began; the fevers and night sweats continued.
On May 16, Fremont High School senior Preston Reiger was diagnosed with Stage 3B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at Nebraska Cancer Specialists.
On Jan. 6, the Preston Reiger Benefit Dinner is being held at the Fremont Masonic Lodge, 350 E. 23rd St, to help with expenses and to benefit Preston and his family.
Numerous people helped with the planning process beginning in July, including Preston’s longtime friend, and fellow FHS senior, Hannah Leeper.
“Preston and I have known each other for a long time. We both went to Bell Field Elementary with one another,” Leeper said during a Thursday evening interview inside of the Milady Coffeehouse. “We also knew each other through some of the Masonic Home youth organizations … When I found out that Preston was diagnosed, I turned to my mom and another adult that I know and said I think we should do something like this.”
The benefit runs from 5-8 p.m. and tickets for a soup dinner are available at the door for $6. A silent auction and raffle will take place throughout the evening. Leeper said she is in the process of selling raffle tickets leading up the benefit. Raffle prizes include a 55-inch television and a Kindle Fire. Anybody or any business wishing to donate raffle or silent auction items are encouraged to contact Angie Leeper at 402-317-9870.
“It’s pretty special. When Hannah reached out I started crying,” said Valerie Evans, Preston’s mother. “It was completely unexpected and she (Hannah) has been a little light in our life with all of this going on.”
With everything Preston and his family have been dealing with, they will take a little light wherever they can find it.
Prior to Preston’s visit to MedExpress, it was clear something was wrong, which is why they went in search of meaningful answers. Instead, the following months simply brought about more anxiety, frustration and confusion.
At MedExpress, Preston and Evans were told he likely had a sinus infection. Their second stop, one week later, was to Preston’s primary physician. They were told he likely had bronchitis and he was placed on a heavy dosage of antibiotics. Another week passed, another doctor’s visit came.
“I took him back because I knew something wasn’t right,” Evans said. “Those lymph nodes weren’t going down and he was staying about the same. Preston didn’t have a cough and they did a chest X-ray and said that it looked like some bronchitis was going on, which later on they found out it was those lymph nodes, but an X-ray doesn’t tend to show that. They never assumed that it would be cancer.”
The dosage of antibiotics was increased and the hope was that whatever was going on would clear up on its own.
But it didn’t.
A visit to an ear, nose and throat specialist in Omaha finally yielded the determination that a biopsy should be done on the biggest lump in Preston’s neck. The chills and sweats didn’t dissipate.
“It would kind of come on and off,” Preston said. “It would continually go for a week, and then it would stop. It was kind of like a pattern, I would get really cold and start to shiver a lot for 20 minutes, and then I would get a high fever.”
A temperature of 103.7 degrees was one of his highest fevers, Evans added.
A biopsy was completed at CHI Health Lakeside Hospital, but once again, there were still more questions than answers following the 1 ½ hour-long procedure. The sample from Preston’s lymph node was sent to three separate locations, and all results of the sample came back as being inconclusive.
Finally, Preston’s sample was sent to an elite oncology specialist out of state, which ultimately provided the determination Preston and his mother were dreading.
On May 16, the news came and then a panel of doctors entered the room at Nebraska Cancer Specialists and started discussing a plan of attack. Preston calmly spoke about his reaction to learning his diagnosis. He had, in a way, braced himself for whatever news he was about to receive.
“I wasn’t like shocked, I was kind of prepared because my mom said that this is something I could have, so I wouldn’t say I was really scared or anything,” he said.
Evans added, “We wanted to prepare him ahead of time because all the research I’d done pointed to that route. Everything we looked up popped up as this (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma).”
The plan of attack was to hit the cancer hard with ABVD chemotherapy; which would target the swollen lymph nodes on both sides of his neck, both arm pits and upper chest cavity. One was in his lower stomach.
“Anything that goes past the diaphragm they stage as a (Stage) 3,” Evans said.
Prior to chemotherapy starting in May, Evans said that Preston had a bone marrow biopsy to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread. A week later a port was placed, and he underwent three surgeries at Lakeside Hospital during a two-month span.
On Friday, Preston completed his 10th session of chemotherapy. Evans said at most sessions a picture is taken of Preston to count down the days until he is done. He has two more sessions, and another PET scan will follow.
Progress has been made, but concerns still loom. A recent PET scan showed the possibility of a new troublesome lymph node, but a biopsy cannot be completed because it’s too close to his heart and his lungs.
“They saw one lymph node and one shadow,” Evans said. “They are not sure exactly what that is. They are assuming that it still probably is cancer, so they opted to do four more chemo treatments to see where we stand.”
If Preston doesn’t fully respond to the chemotherapy, stem cell treatment may be the next step. If he does respond, Evans said he will still undergo radiation treatment.
While this is a tough, scary time in Preston’s life, he is making the best of it. He looked up his prognosis on the internet and said he read there is a 90-percent survival rate for his kind of cancer. His body also feels a lot better, and that is helping.
“He kept his summer really busy,” Evans added. “He would go to the high school and lift weights, he has a close circuit of friends he was always doing things with and I think that really helped keep his mind off of it.”
It was also key to try and keep the situation as lighthearted as one possibly could under the circumstances.
“He has a steroid that he has to take with his chemo, and he gets chemo on Fridays and doesn’t feel better until Tuesday morning usually,” Evans said. “So we’d always tell him – because he didn’t feel good and would get a little crabby – that he had some roid rage.”
Preston said that he appreciates the support from the community, his friends and his teachers. His eyes have been opened to people’s kindness.
“I didn’t expect this,” he said. “I didn’t know that people cared this much about me.”
Every holiday season as area residents go out to get groceries, or get the mail, the sights and sounds of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign are ever present.
Individuals stand next to red kettles at the entrances of area businesses, ringing bells, and collecting donations to raise funds for the Salvation Army’s various programs.
One local resident who can be found ringing bells next to a red kettle, is retiree Jim Keeler, who has been volunteering with Salvation Army for over 65 years.
“At least that, if not longer,” Keeler said as he rang his bell outside of Hy-Vee on Friday afternoon. “Caring is sharing and the world need a lot of caring right now, especially this time of year there are a lot of people really needing a lot of help.”
For Keeler, volunteering as a bell ringer for the Red Kettle Campaign is a way for him to give back to the organization that helped him and his family when he was a boy.
“I grew up in the Salvation Army and sometimes if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have had anything at all,” he said. “We wouldn’t have had much of a Christmas if it wasn’t for them, so it’s just giving back.”
Along with Keeler, many other residents will be out ringing bells to raise money for Salvation Army as they hold this year’s Red Kettle Campaign through Christmas Eve.
This year’s campaign was kicked off with a Kettle Kick Off Coffee event on Tuesday where Captain Stephen Hansen announced that the locally the Salvation Army Hopes to raise $45,000 through the red kettles and a total of $164,000 through all of their Christmas campaign.
“We hope to do this through a number of different ways,” he said. “Through kettles, direct mail, people stopping by, and through the Adopt-a-Family that First National Bank does for us every year.”
Contributions to the Red Kettle Campaign help the Salvation Army bring the spirit of Christmas to the aged and lonely, ill, poor and disadvantaged, inmates of jails and other institutions, and people otherwise forgotten.
The funds raised go towards the Salvation Army food pantry, rent and utilities assistance and maintaining numerous programs, including the Summer Lunch Program.
“It helps us provide the Christmas food boxes and toys, as well as the assistance we do all year around,” Hansen said. “It supports everything we do in the community, the Summer Lunch Program and all the things we do to reach out. One of the key things we are working on here is hunger in our community, and between our food pantry, food boxes, and the summer lunch program we are trying to meet most of that need here.”
Kettles are located around Fremont at Walmart, Hy-Vee, Hobby Lobby, Bakers Foods, Walgreens, and the post office.
Hundreds of Fremont residents will donate their time ringing bells and collecting money for the Salvation Army this holiday season and people are urged to volunteer for an hour-long time slot by calling the Salvation Army at 402-721-0930, or by visiting www.ringbells.org.
“None of us can raise all the funds without the help of each other,” Hansen said. “I love being out there and I think it brings a lot of joy to the community. We all have an hour here or there that we can volunteer and if we all do that we will fill up every single hour that we have available.”
While volunteering as a bell ringer is needed and appreciated. anybody who simply puts in some change into the kettle is making a difference.
“We used to have these signs that said “Put in Change, and Expect Change,” Hansen said. “What it basically meant was that no one could really raise the total by themselves, but every penny, dime or nickel helps us reach our goal so we can assist people in the community who need help.”
This story has been updated with the correct website address.
It’s a chance to provide some hope.
This year marks the 14th Annual Festival of Hope – an event designed to raise funds for The Bridge, while offering shoppers a chance to buy some unique holiday items.
Area residents are invited to participate in the fundraiser, planned from Nov. 25 through Dec. 3.
The Bridge, at 141 S. Union St., in Fremont offers emergency and temporary shelter for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault and many other services.
With the Festival of Hope, area residents donate decorated Christmas trees, wreaths, centerpieces and other holiday items for a silent auction.
Representatives from businesses and organizations along with area individuals may to drop off their items on Tuesday at Abe Krasne’s Home Furnishings, 450 N. Main St., in Fremont.
Items will be placed throughout Krasne’s and across the street at Casual Lifestyles, 447 N. Main St., said Linda Schlapfer, outreach coordinator.
Bidding sheets will be placed at both locations. Would-be buyers can go into the stores and place their bids on the sheets.
Bids start at $25 with $5 increments. The highest bidders will be called on Dec. 3 to pick up their items on Dec. 4.
Krasne’s hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. The store also is open until 8 p.m. Thursdays; from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays.
“The money directly supports The Bridge services,” Schlapfer said.
The Bridge provides confidential services for individuals and families who experience domestic abuse, dating violence and sexual assault. The agency serves people in five counties, Burt, Cuming, Dodge, Saunders and Washington.
It offers other services including: a 24-hour crisis line (1-888-721-4340 or 1-402-727-7777); safety planning; crisis intervention counseling; emergency/temporary shelter; support groups for adults and children who’ve experienced domestic and sexual abuse; accompaniment and medical support; criminal and civil justice support.
Other services include: prevention programming for youth (from preschool through college) and the community; a batter’s intervention program and community education.
All victim services are free, confidential and available in English and Spanish.
Last year, staff and volunteers at The Bridge responded to 4,092 calls for help on the agency’s 24-hour crisis line; 838 individuals with 752 children received face-to-face crisis intervention and support services, said Suzanne Smith, executive director.
The Bridge also provided 567 youth prevention presentations to almost 7,000 people. Educators worked with youth in 84 different classrooms throughout the service area.
Smith also noted that every nine seconds in the United States, a woman is battered and by the end of this year, almost 4 million children will have witnessed domestic violence.
She said one in four women and one in seven men experience severe physical violence in their lifetime.