Teen rodeo champ wins big while fighting brain tumor
SCOTT, La. (AP) — For the Dubois family, roping is a rite of passage.
After all, it’s in their blood.
Jeanne and her husband Shel got married in 1998 after meeting at her father’s western store in Carencro.
Shel came in to buy a cowboy hat, and it was obvious from the start that they shared a passion.
“His family owned a western store, too,” Jeanne says. “It was called Dubois’ and it was in Abbeville.”
They tied the knot at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Scott before settling in the Church Point area. Almost immediately, the couple decided to try for a baby.
But that came with unanticipated challenges.
“We tried for five years,” Jeanne says. “My first pregnancy was ectopic, the second was a miscarriage, and the third was Luke . I always call him our miracle baby.”
Luke was born on March 1, 2003. After years of praying for a child, Jeanne was elated to become a mother.
“He was a very good baby,” she recalls. “He was spoiled, and I held him all the time. I got to stay home with him while Shel worked (at Jeanne’s family’s store), and life was really good.”
Luke grew up surrounded by horses. He would ride with his dad as a baby and fell in love with the sport as a young boy.
At 4, Luke competed in his first rodeo.
“He did sheep riding and barrel racing,” Jeanne says. “But at his second sheep riding, he hit a wall, got a big goose egg and that was the end of that part.”
Luke then started roping — and he hasn’t looked back since.
“It really is in our blood,” Jeanne explains. “I rodeoed in high school, and so did Shel. His dad owned a rodeo company, my dad always had horses . Shel always roped, and that’s what got Luke interested. It’s in our backyard, and it’s what we do. It’s just always been a part of Luke’s life.”
As Luke learned the ropes, so to speak, his competitive edge grew fierce. When he was about 8 years old, he got into the sport of team roping, which Jeanne refers to as his “first love.”
While Luke honed his craft, his parents expanded the family by having five other children: Grace, 13; Faith, 11; John David, 9; Gabe, 6, and Clay, 4.
Life was hectic, but Luke continued to compete — and win, time after time.
Earlier this year, he experienced one of his biggest victories at Coushatta in Kinder, where he faced off against 1,100 roping teams.
The grand prize? A brand-new Dodge truck.
Luke was determined to take it home.
“He had 12 runs that weekend,” Jeanne says. “At 15, he was one of the youngest, and his chances were slim. But he had it in his mind from the beginning that he was going to win that truck.”
And he did.
“Luke was so excited,” Jeanne recalls. “It really shows his determination, strength and focus . with that pressure, roping with older guys, for hours each day . that, to me, shows a lot of character. He’s the kind of kid who can focus no matter what, under pressure, and that’s what it takes to be a winner. He’s been able to stay calm and focused through everything else that’s going on.”
Last December, Luke was home practicing for an upcoming rodeo, when an accident landed him in the hospital.
“He was practicing chute dogging (a rodeo event related to steer wrestling),” Jeanne says. “And a steer hit him in the face. It cut him, and he came inside for a Band-Aid. I insisted that he needed stitches, so we brought him to the hospital. And that’s when he started talking funny. I thought maybe it was a concussion, so doctors ordered a CT scan. I could tell something wasn’t right.”
The next morning, radiologists looked at the scan and said that Luke needed an MRI immediately.
“I thought he was fine at this point, though,” Jeanne explains. “But I said, ‘OK, I am sure they are being overly cautious.’ Luke didn’t even want to go.”
But thankfully, they followed through.
“The neurologist at Lourdes came in,” Jeanne recalls, “and said, ‘There is a mass on his brain stem, and it’s a brain tumor.’ And we were just shocked. I asked the doctor if the tumor was benign, and he said, ’I call every brain tumor cancerous because if left untreated, it could be fatal.”
On Dec. 6, 2017, Luke was diagnosed with a low grade glioma brain stem tumor.
Initially — and understandably — he was devastated.
“He looked at me and said, ‘This could ruin my whole life,’ ” Jeanne explains. “We finally got into St. Jude’s in Memphis, and doctors have talked about doing a biopsy, but the tumor is in a very dangerous place. St. Jude’s is split on what to do — so for now, they’re just playing it by ear and watching him.”
Luke’s symptoms haven’t been bad — he gets straight As and has great coordination. ...
But for now — he’s still roping, rodeoing and hoping to make it to the U.S. Team Roping finals at the end of October.
Luke’s incredible drive leaves his mother speechless.
“Some days,” she says, “I don’t even want to get out of bed because I’m so upset about what he’s going through, but he is practicing, going for it, and he’s determined ... he’s going to make the best of it. Until we see where we stand, he’s just living life like normal. Doctors said to live with no restrictions . let him live his life and do what he loves.”
So that’s exactly what Luke has been doing.
“He’s just trying to live his best life,” Jeanne says. “We’ve been fully supportive of him doing whatever he wants to do, working toward his goals. He won a national championship, he won his truck, and his next goal is going to Oklahoma next month (for the U.S. Team Roping finals).”
One of the biggest pieces of Luke’s roping “puzzle” is his sister, Grace, with whom he’s been competing for years. She’s also an award-winning roper, and they absolutely love taking the world by storm together.
Luke’s diagnosis has been especially hard on her.
“She feels a little left out,” Jeanne says. “But I’m very proud of her. Very proud. I tell her to keep chasing her dreams because she’s very talented. Luke couldn’t have won all that he has without her. They’re a great team.”
One thing, however, that will always remain the same for this family — no matter what happens — is their dedication to each other.
“When people ask me for advice,” Jeanne explains, “I say go to the rodeos, the ball games, the concerts. Don’t miss anything. Don’t take things for granted. Just be there for your kids, spend one-on-one time with them. I know it’s hard with big families, but have that time. Don’t let them start living their lives, living their dreams, without being there for them.”
Information from: The Advertiser, http://www.theadvertiser.com