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Jacks defenseman Colby Bukes battling through rookie season as mom battles cancer

By Scott Bradford, 03/23/17, 5:00PM EDT

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MUSKEGON, MI- Colby Bukes is a tough kid. He just turned 18, but he’s already been through more than some see in a lifetime.

Bukes is a hockey player, and a good one. As a rookie in the USHL, he’s put together a solid campaign, proving he belongs in the United States’ elite junior hockey league. He’s suited up for all 54 games this season for the Lumberjacks, and has scored three goals, adding four assists.

In January, Bukes was on the ice, patrolling defensively for the Jacks in a game against Chicago. At neutral ice, a puck deflected into Colby’s face, cutting him badly. His mouthful of blood spilled out onto the ice, making a basketball-sized stain on the playing surface.

Trainer Ian Wood glued his upper lip back together and Bukes was back on the ice for his next shift.

Stitches, cuts, even broken bones are part of the game, but the bumps and bruises of a long season aren’t the hardest thing Bukes has had to go through.  His mom, Debbie, who had been in remission after a two-year battle with breast cancer, has been diagnosed with cancer that has attacked her spine.

Colby, a quiet kid from Littleton, Colorado, is the youngest of three. His older siblings Brianna and Cam live near Debbie’s home in Littleton, and visit her often.

But for Colby, the recent visits have been few and far between, forcing most of their communication to be done over the phone.

“I talk to my mom about every day,” said Colby. “She’s a fighter and has been fighting this for a long time now. She’s tough.”

Colby, who just turned 18 years old on February 1st, admires his mom’s attitude despite the circumstances she’s faced.

“She’s always positive,” said Colby. “She’s always smiling and I try to do the same. I try and have that attitude whether I’m talking to her, or talking to my teammates out on the ice.”

Cancer implements its own strenuous schedule. Debbie has endured an eight-hour surgery, a six-month stint of hardcore chemotherapy, and a three-week long coma. Despite this, Debbie has found time to update well-wishers on her GoFundMe page, one that more than 60 people have donated to. The pictures are always of her smiling, even without her normally long, blonde hair.

However, the page has not gotten the traction the Bukes family was hoping for- in more than one month’s time, only $7,300 of the page’s $50,000 goal have been raised.

You can donate to the page here, and even the smallest donation is meaningful.

Her latest post finishes with “let’s wait and see”.

The Bukes family has done everything they can to this point; Debbie has sought treatment, even exploring experimental options, but there is no vaccine, no guarantee, no cure.

Mercy Health’s Johnson Family Cancer Center is committed to making world-class cancer care available on the lakeshore, and they continue to implement cutting-edge technology to level the playing field when it comes to treating cancer.

So come to Saturday’s game and bid on Colby’s jersey afterward. The proceeds the Lumberjacks generate from their postgame jersey auction on Saturday will be donated to the Johnson Family Cancer Center, and help people like Debbie who need it most.

Saturday’s Jacks Fight Cancer game will no doubt be emotional for the youngest Bukes child, who will take the ice against the Fargo Force in a very important game for his Lumberjacks. Currently in second place in the Eastern Conference, Muskegon is vying for home-ice advantage in the Clark Cup playoffs. With just six games remaining in the regular season, tension is high.

But it’s far from the worst tension he’s had to deal with this season.