Jenna Kanitz received donations from the golf benefit upon her return from treatment in Milwaukee from her uncle, Dick Hansen.
Jenna Kanitz received donations from the golf benefit upon her return from treatment in Milwaukee from her uncle, Dick Hansen.
Big Stone Golf Course in Three Lakes hosted a fundraiser golf outing, “Patti Marquis Tournament of Friends,” for a local young woman last Friday.

Since 2011, Jenna Kanitz of Conover has struggled with a rare form of blood cancer, been through two bone marrow transplants, been diagnosed with a second form of cancer and now Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD), requiring weekly trips to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee for treatment. 

Big Stone Golf Professional Patti Marquis wanted to do whatever she could to help out Kanitz and her family.

Marquis bought the entire Big Stone Golf Course for the day and hosted, with the help of Ginny Campbell, a free four-person scramble event, supplying the golf carts, golf hole prizes and raffles — all at no charge to the entire field of golfers. 

Those who participated were encouraged to donate whatever they could to the cause, and in the end, Marquis stated the event raised approximately $14,000 with all proceeds going to help with medical and transportation costs for Kanitz and her family.

“I just wanted to do something for this family. My good friend and excellent golfer Laurayne Conway, who passed away recently, helped with the inspiration for this event and I decided to put this golf benefit together,” said Marquis. “Laurayne knew about the plans for this before she died and purchased the beer for the day. The success of this event would have made her so happy.”

Long battle

The event was held to help with Kanitz’s never-ending medical bills and travel expenses.

This all began for Kanitz in 2011. While doing pre-op labs for her brain surgery, doctors discovered a very rare blood cancer called Polycythemia Vera. At the time of diagnosis, Kanitz was just a mere 22 years old.

From 2011-’15, Kanitz visited several doctors and tried an array of varying chemos andother therapies. None were effective. In early 2015, Kanitz was referred to a doctor at UW- Madison who specialized in rare blood cancers. By February 2015, a bone marrow biopsy revealed her cancer had advanced to Myleolofibrosis. It was determined a bone marrow

transplant was needed for her survival. 

On Aug. 10, 2015, Kanitz received her first bone marrow transplant from her mother, Wendy. Unfortunately, Jenna’s body refused acceptance of these cells and after a year this transplant was deemed a failure. She received another devastating blow, finding out that this attempted transplant had caused a second type of cancer, Myelodysplatic syndrome.

In September 2017, Kanitz underwent a second bone marrow transplant from a total stranger from the National Bone Marrow Registry. Finally a success —  Jenna had 100% or her donor cells and was cancer free for the first time in six years.

Not long after this second transplant, complications began. Kanitz developed GVHD. Her donor cells began fighting her own cells. 

The GVHD is currently affecting Kantiz’s hair, skin, nails, lungs, stomach, muscles and joints. It has even affected her eyes, rendering her almost blind. 

Kanitz travels from Conover to Milwaukee every week for two-day treatments at Froedtert Hospital. On top of these weekly infusions, Kanitz is taking 30-plus medications daily to help deal with all the side effects of GVHD.

In the last nine years, Kanitz has endured over 20 hospital stays, three flight for life helicopter transports and countless ambulance rides.

Many volunteers

Other friends of Marquis also got involved in the benefit. 

“My very good friends, Dick and Mary Ann Hansen, who are Jenna’s uncle and aunt, have also been so supportive of having this event, and they paid for all of the brats we are grilling today,” said Marquis.

“This golf course, its staff, owner and manager, Ed Jacobsen and Lenell, and the entire community have been so supportive and so great to work with. This is just a fun event to be able to host for Jenna and her family,” added Marquis.

With many of the 19 raffle prizes and 18 hole prizes donated, Marquis also personally purchased some of the prizes that were awarded during the day.

The day concluded with Live Music with Todd. 

“The weather was perfect and the success of the event even more perfect,” said Marquis.