BBQ fundraiser to benefit USM grad
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 01:04
Recently graduating from college, looking for a full time job, and having a family and bills to pay don’t make for an easy situation. Now imagine having Hodgkin’s lymphoma and being medically uninsured on top of all that.
This situation is reality for University of Southern Mississippi graduate Jay van Orsdol, who was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of lymph tissue and lymph nodes, in January of this year.
“We were pretty freaked out the first couple of days,” van Orsdol said. “My first thought was, ‘Who’s going to take care of my boys? Who’s going to take care of Heather [my wife]?’ My first thought was, ‘I’m going to die.’”
At the time of his diagnosis, van Orsdol was working part-time bartending for a catering company. He had met a doctor at a few of the events where he was working and asked if he could take a look at a lump that had developed on his neck. Shortly thereafter, the doctor confirmed van Orsdol had Hodgkin’s lymphoma and referred him to chemotherapy treatment. So far, he has completed six treatments of the twelve that have been prescribed.
Van Orsdol’s recovery prognosis is good; body scans have shown that the masses in his lymph tissue and nodes have decreased by at least fifty percent. However, the cost of this prognosis is hard to bear; in addition to the chemo treatments, there are costs for injections, testing, and other fees that have stacked up to be a financial burden.
“It’s been a challenging year so far,” said Heather Stur, wife of van Orsdol and USM assistant history professor, said. “Not only was my husband diagnosed with cancer, but we had just had our second child back in November, so we’re juggling a toddler and an infant as well as dealing with Jay’s treatment. Jay is young and has always been healthy, so we never expected a cancer diagnosis, and it took me a while to get over the shock and process it all. We had to brace ourselves for the high price tag of it all.”
Van Orsdol received a bachelor’s degree from USM’s School of Mass Communication and Journalism in May 2011 in order to further his photography skills. During his time at Southern Miss, he also photographed for The Student Printz.
Stur said she and van Orsdol are seeking strength from relatives and focusing on their future as a family.
Van Orsdol said the cost of the treatments has taken a toll on his sons’ college funds, which he hopes to begin rebuilding when his cancer is cured. To help with these efforts, the Department of History at USM has partnered with Keg & Barrel and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church to host a BBQ, Blues, & Beer fund-raiser event on Sunday from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. to help pay for van Orsdol’s medical bills. Each BBQ plate costs $12 and includes pulled pork or brisket, potato salad and baked beans. A blues band will also play during the event.
“They’re a quintessential Southern Miss family,” USM history professor Andrew Wiest said. “One thing I’ve figured out about Southern Miss is that we’re a family and that we take care of each other. This is a really good and needed example of that. If what we can do is show the Southern Miss family cares about them and help them out now or in the future, that’s great.”
“The fund-raiser is another reminder of what a wonderful USM/Hattiesburg family we have,” Stur said. “The support of our friends here means the world to us as we are going through this difficult time, and it is helping us get through this. We are overwhelmed and humbled by the kindness the USM and Hattiesburg communities are showing us.”
Van Orsdol hopes attendees have a good time and know that the benefit money will help pay for his medical bills and ultimately go back into savings for his sons.
“I’m incredibly nervous and shy about the whole thing,” van Orsdol said. “I’ve never been one to enjoy lots of attention, but I’m completely grateful.”
“Dr. Stur is an awesome mentor, teacher, mother and wife, and her husband deserves the best medical care he can get,” Mollie Egloff, a senior history major, said. “Anyone who knows Dr. Stur knows she loves good music, so I’m sure the BBQ and Blues fund-raiser for her husband at Keg and Barrel will not disappoint in that aspect. It’s always a good thing to help someone else out and having fun while you’re doing it.”
For more information, contact the history department at 601-266-4333.