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'I Hate Cancer' benefit show to support Roseville mom with leukemia

Shelley Luke finished her fourth round of chemotherapy treatment, needs a bone marrow transplant
By: Sena Christian
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Shelley and Jim Luke’s biggest decision on the weekends used to be where to take their dogs for a walk. They’d go to the coffeeshop near their house in Roseville with their Jack Russell Terrier mix, Lucy, and Staffordshire Terrier, Max, in tow. Or the couple would head to “Diet Cokeville,” which is their name for 7-Eleven. Plans also centered on their son Jake’s baseball and football games. Life back then was drama free. “Now we have all this drama,” said Shelley Luke, sitting in her bed at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. A knit cap covered her head, where there used to be shoulder-length auburn-colored hair. “I don’t want this drama anymore,” she said. In February, Shelley, 42, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She recently finished her fourth round of chemotherapy. Because of the presence of a chromosomal abnormality — known as the Philadelphia Chromosome — she also needs a bore marrow transplant. “As soon as I hear I have a (bone marrow) match, I get to stop chemotherapy,” Shelley said. “Hopefully, they’ll find a match soon.” After finishing the chemotherapy treatment, which typically takes between one and two weeks, Shelley must stay in the hospital until her cell count rebuilds to safe levels for her to return home — where she then must avoid crowds and germs. Her health changes quickly. She can feel fine one minute and ill the next. “I have no way of fighting infections right now,” Shelley said. “I’m crashing. That’s what they call it.” She conversed with her visiting husband and son Thursday at the hospital. Many of their friends can’t visit because they have small children such as Brent Rector, who has known the Lukes for more than 10 years. “Jim and Shelley are our best friends,” Rector said. “They’re like family.” Rector and Jim Luke met through car shows. The guys — who are also neighbors — rebuild customs and hotrods, working together outside in the garage every Saturday. “It’s a bunch of super close friends,” Rector said. “We’ve seen Jake grow up, now being a (high school) graduate. They’re great parents, very calm and supportive. Shelley’s a fun person. We want to see the fun person she used to be.” In December of last year, Shelley was getting ready to go to her job as a customer service supervisor at Tab Products in Rancho Cordova when she felt a dull pain in her hip. “I didn’t think anything of it,” she said. That was on a Wednesday. By Friday, she could barely move. She went to urgent care and the doctor told her to go to the emergency room, where medical personnel ran tests, eventually telling her she didn’t have cancer but to follow-up with her doctor. A couple months later, she was diagnosed with cancer. Shelley now waits to hear the good news that a bone marrow match has been found. A bone marrow drive was conducted in her name through BloodSource at the now-closed Hard Rock Café in Sacramento in March. The 76 friends who attended gave a cheek swab sample to join the national bone marrow registry. Although donors aren’t allowed to specify recipients, the Lukes said they’re happy the event helped raise awareness about the need for more bone marrow donors. If matched, donors either undergo a process that involves the separation of stem cells from blood or a less-common surgical procedure in which liquid marrow is drawn from the donor’s pelvic bone. “Bone marrow has a bad rap,” Jim Luke said. “People don’t realize they do it with stem cells. It’s painless.” Doctors tested Shelley’s twin brother but he wasn’t a match. About 70 percent of people in need of bone marrow don’t have a genetically matched family member. “It’s like winning the lottery if you find a bone marrow match,” Shelley said. Literally wining the lottery would also help the Lukes with the rising costs associated with cancer treatment. Shelley will undergo the bone marrow transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona — her insurance won’t allow her to have the procedure done in downtown Sacramento. This means the couple will be faced with paying the mortgage on their Roseville house, while renting an apartment in Arizona. Rector and a group of friends decided to organize a benefit show to raise money for the Lukes, which takes place Saturday at the Roseville Moose Lodge. “Jim and Shelley feel overwhelmed and this gives them monetary support and friendship support to feel people caring about them,” Rector said. Jake Luke, 18, recently graduated from Roseville High School and will attend a community college in Arizona this fall. His parents celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary April 21 in the hospital. Both grew up in Orange County and met at a friend’s Sweet 16 birthday party. The couple moved to Roseville in 1993. “We’ve known each other forever,” Jim Luke said. They spent their honeymoon at Apple Farm Inn in San Luis Obispo, a trip Jim would like to take again in the future, although Shelley has her sights set on New York or Hawaii. But, for now, plans are difficult to make. “I was always busy working, doing any overtime I could,” Shelley said. “Now I think, ‘Why? Why did I do that?’ (Cancer) shifts your priorities. Life is too short.” The Lukes agree they used to live a “boring” life and Shelley would simply like to be able to do things like go to the grocery store again. “I just want my boring life back,” she said. Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- The I Hate Cancer benefit show will raise money to help the Luke family pay for the costs associated with leukemia treatment and a bone marrow transplant. The event features the music of Patrick Walsh, Brian Hanover and Alkali Flats. There will be a car show, horseshoes, barbecue and food, a raffle and auction. Items include a signed Tyreke Evans jersey, weekend for two in Tahoe, signed Eagles and Deftones gear and more. All-ages are welcome to attend. A $10 donation is requested. The benefit show takes place 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, June 19, at the Roseville Moose Lodge, 506 Lincoln St. ---------- Anyone interested in donating to the Lukes' medical expenses fund online, can go to Paypal, www.paypal.com, and click on the "send money" option. The e-mail address to donate is helpforshelley@yahoo.com. ---------- An estimated 44,740 people were diagnosed with leukemia in the United States in 2009. About 5,500 people are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) each year. ALL is a cancer of white blood cells, the cells in the body that normally fight infections. It is the most common cancer diagnosed in children. Source: National Cancer Institute, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.