PHILLIPSBURG — Special funds gave two Phillipsburg women hope and help for the future.

When cancer struck Donna Boyington and Joanne Niemczyk Ceman, monies from the Hope in the Heartland fund helped them with extra expenses.

Boyington, the wife of John and co-owner of Crossroads Veterinary Clinic in Phillipsburg, was first diagnosed with endometrial cancer in late 2014. She had a hysterectomy to remove the tumors. After radiation and chemotherapy treatment in 2015, doctors told her there was a very good chance the cancer would not return. She was diagnosed with her second bout in July of last year. Doctors repaired organs damaged by the cancer and removed more tumors, which had spread to her abdomen.

Ceman was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2016. She did chemotherapy once a week for eight weeks, then radiation treatment every day for nearly a month, driving to Hays for treatment.

Both women received funding from Hope in the Heartland, an organization which provides funding for cancer patients in the Phillips County and surrounding area. Hope in the Heartland’s main fundraiser is Kansas Biggest Rodeo, which raises money through its Tough Enough to Wear Pink night, held on the first Thursday of the rodeo each year. Fans at pink night (this year, Aug. 2), are asked to wear pink to bring awareness to cancer. For every fan wearing pink to the rodeo that night, the Phillipsburg Rodeo Association donates one dollar to Hope in the Heartland funds. Voluntary donations are picked up through the grandstands that night, and local businesses also donate.

Ceman used the donation mostly for travel expenses. “It helped a lot,” she said. “We used it for traveling to Hays.” She is employed at Witmer Drug Store and Crossroads Vet Clinic, and her bosses were understanding. “The people I work for were really good,” she said. “I worked as much as I could. If I needed to sit for a few minutes and catch my breath, they were good about it.”

On days of treatment, Ceman worked half-days, scheduling treatments for the morning so she could be back to work in the afternoon.

Ceman had her last radiation treatment in May 2017, and her cancer is in remission. Her husband, Chris, is facing his own battle. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013 and because of complications, has kidney failure. He is on home kidney dialysis.

Boyington worked at Crossroads Veterinary Clinic full time but during treatment did a lot of the paperwork from home. She and John’s daughter Brooke, the 2014 Phillipsburg Rodeo Queen, returned home to help her parents after graduating from Kansas State University last spring.  “She has been a true blessing,” Donna said. “We’re so thankful, because she’s so helpful. She’s helped (John) as much if not more than me.”  

Ceman and her husband Chris moved to Phillipsburg from Minnesota in 2001 with their three boys, Tony, Zach and Chris, and have gone to the rodeo several times. Before she had cancer, it wasn’t on her radar like it is now. “It’s amazing how many people are affected by it or have had some kind of it,” she said. The Hope in the Heartland money was appreciated. “It was wonderful. We were really grateful for it.”

Boyington was appreciative of the funds, too. She and John traveled to Kansas City frequently for treatment, as well as to Hays every three weeks, so the funds went towards travel expenses. Her final chemo treatment was in February.

Boyington has a unique tie to the Phillipsburg rodeo. She competed in college rodeo in the barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying and did some professional barrel racing as well. Her husband steer wrestled at the Phillipsburg Rodeo and serves as the official veterinarian for the rodeo. He won the 2015 PRCA Veterinarian of the Year award. They rarely miss a night of rodeo.

Both women are thankful for the friends, family and community that have supported them through their ordeal. Even though her husband’s health isn’t the best, Ceman looks on the bright side of it. “There’s always somebody who is worse off than we are.” Boyington appreciates the community. “It’s wonderful to live in a town like Phillipsburg. People are so thoughtful and we really appreciate it.”

“It’s nice to live in a place where people care.”

The Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign started at the Phillipsburg rodeo in 2006; since then, more than $83,000 has been raised. Several Phillipsburg businesses match the rodeo’s donation: Prairie Horizon Agri-Energy, McClain Seed Sales, Rodgers and Associates Insurance Co., and Farmers State Bank.

The Phillipsburg rodeo is Aug. 2 to 4. Performances begin at 8 p.m. each day, and tickets range in price from $11 to $18. Tickets can be purchased at Heritage Insurance in Phillipsburg (785) 543-2448 and at the gate. For more information, visit the rodeo’s website at