Local Fifth Grader Fighting Cancer at the Mayo Clinic


Photo courtesy of Tammy Chamley

“Fight Derek Fight” is a phrase that can be seen and heard throughout our small community.  Derek Gerlach, a fifth grader at Dell Rapids Middle School, is undergoing the fight of his life.

Derek was diagnosed with a brain tumor on November 6th, 2018.  The following day Derek underwent surgery to remove a tumor from the base of his skull.  Derek has been diagnosed with Medulloblastoma.

According to Wikipedia.org, Medulloblastoma is the most common type of pediatric malignant primary brain tumor (cancer), originating in the part of the brain that is towards the back and bottom, on the floor of the skull, in the cerebellum, or posterior fossa.


Photo courtesy of Tammy Chamley

On Monday, December 3rd, Derek started his six week radiation therapy at the Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minnesota.   Derek is looking at a minimum of a year of chemotherapy treatment to battle his cancer.

On Friday, November 30th, before Derek’s departure for the Mayo Clinic, his classmates had a heart-felt surprise for him.  The fifth grade class presented Derek with a homemade quilt for his journey and time away from them.  Each fifth grade student designed a square to be placed on the quilt.  Tanna Swanson, retired fifth grade math teacher (who now steps in as a substitute teacher) was able to bring the creation to life.  Thanks to many hours of sewing, Derek was able to have his quilt before he left for the treatment ahead of him.  “I am so amazed at the maturity and support that the Dell Rapids fifth graders have shown through this with Derek,” Shane Gerlach said.

Shortly after arriving at the hotel in Rochester, the Gerlach family received the call that they were accepted to stay at the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester, Minnesota.  The Ronald McDonald House provides a place for families to call home so they can stay close by their hospitalized child at little to no cost.

Due to the amount of appointments the first week in Rochester, both of Derek’s parents, Shane and Donelle will be staying with him.  After the first week, Shane and Donelle will rotate time spent with Derek in Rochester and their home in Dell Rapids.  “Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day will all be spent in Rochester,” Shane Gerlach stated.   “But we’ll be together. That is all that matters. I don’t care where we spend the holiday, we’ll at least be with each other.”

To help Derek and his family, you can donate at any Wells Fargo to the Derek Gerlach Charity Fund, the Help Derek Fight Go Fund Me website, purchase a #fightderekfight bracelet or window decal and most importantly, prayers for Derek.

Want to read more from the Dells City Journal? Here’s how:

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/dellscityjournal/

Website: http://dellscityjournal.com/

Tammy Chamley, Managing Editor
Contact Info:
Dells City Journal
513 West 4th Street
Dell Rapids, SD 57022
Tel: 605-428-5600
Fax: 888-397-6154
Subscription Rates are as follows:
Subscription Rates in SD: 1 Yr. $38.00
Out of State: 1 Yr. $45.00
Share and Like this story: