Corey Imm is one of more than 100 beneficiaries of the Hope in the Heartland funds, provided by Tough Enough to Wear Pink donations through Kansas Biggest Rodeo.
The Phillipsburg farmer was diagnosed with a form of leukemia in February of 2021 and is taking monthly treatments for the blood disorder.
Raised in rural Phillips County and married to Mandy in 1997, doctors had been watching his blood counts through his yearly physicals, and when the numbers got worse, they told him to come in and get checked.
He goes for treatments one week a month for five days, then skips three weeks, and goes back for the next monthly treatment. He also has his blood checked every week and meets with his doctor monthly, all in Kearney, Neb.
He and Mandy are driving 1,720 miles per month, just for treatments and the doctor, and the extra funds provided by Hope in the Heartland help with travel expenses. Corey is self-employed with no insurance, and even if he did have insurance, it wouldn’t cover travel expenses.
With his form of leukemia, his blood isn’t making the right platelets for clotting, His doctor explained it in farming terms. “The way he said it,” Corey said, “was they’ll spray me with Roundup, clean the bad weeds out, and hope the good things grow. It was a good way to explain it to a farmer.”
The infusions haven’t made him sick, but he is fatigued by the end of treatment weeks and doesn’t have the energy to do much. “I tinker, I putter and do paperwork and odds and ends that week.”
Doctors have told him to be careful; an injury could cause him to bleed out. He’s aware that his occupation, farming, is one of the most dangerous in the world. “I could be a logger and that would be worse,” he joked.
His daughter, Sophie, keeps him grounded. On treatment days, she’ll call and ask him, “So, Dad, do you still have cancer?” and he’ll reply in the affirmative. She’ll ask, “are you going to die today?” and he says no. “She keeps me in check,” he said.
The community has been supportive, and Corey and his family are grateful. “We live in a great community, and we have several organizations, including Hope in the Heartland, that have given us funds to help with travel, meals and such. Every dollar helps.”
He and his family attend the rodeo one night, and usually go to a night of slack. Mandy, their two older kids, and now Sophie, have all been part of the Phillipsburg High School Amendments, who sing the national anthem at the rodeo one night, so they take in that night as well. He and Mandy have also volunteered in the past, helping with the west concession stand.
Even though Corey is at a higher risk of infection he’s not missing any of his family’s activities and social gatherings. His son, Laike graduated from high school this year, and daughter Josie was promoted from eighth grade to ninth. Oldest child Hannah will have her first child, the couple’s first grandchild, this summer, and Sophie will be a junior this fall.
“At this point I’m not missing anything,” he said. “Track meets, graduation parties, a promotion party. It’s been busy.”
He’s also missing as little work as possible
“We get up every day and go to work. That’s what we do out here.”
Since its inception in 2006, the rodeo has hosted its “pink” night on the first night of rodeo, this year August 5, 2021. Over $112,000 has been raised for local community members fighting cancer, benefitting 108 people in the last five years.
For every fan through the gate who wears pink, one dollar is donated to the fund, with area businesses matching the rodeo’s donation, including Prairie Horizon Agri-Energy, McClain Farms LLC, Rodgers and Associates Insurance Co., and Farmers State Bank.