The 2010 Relay for Life of Pierce County gets started at 6 p.m. Friday, March 26, at River Falls High School. This year's theme: Olympic Relay, Going for the Gold -- a cure for everyone.
In 2009, the large-scale fundraiser benefitting the American Cancer Society raised $178,500. This year the goal is $182,000.
So far a total of 39 teams of up to 15 members each have registered and are raising funds. The event offers a way for survivors, caregivers and friends and family to come together and celebrate life while raising funds to find a cure.
Relay for Life offers fun activities for the whole community as well as opportunities to contribute. People normally look forward to hearing the three courageous, honorary chairpersons speak about their own experiences.
"I would define myself as a natural caregiver with a creative spirit. But, when Bruce, my husband of 33 years was diagnosed in December of 2006 with stage 4 lung cancer, my world felt like it had crumbled before me. As a registered nurse for many years, my nursing skills were put into use during the next 50 days that Bruce lived with the knowledge of cancer. He passed away on Feb. 3, 2007. Then, it was my creative spirit that fueled me into surviving alone.
"My writing skills became public initially when I was urged to start a CaringBridge web site for Bruce. For me, it not only was a great avenue for updating family and friends of what Bruce was going through, but it was my vent. I remember how I would get on that web site all hours of the day and night to just read what people had written back to Bruce. Then, I found myself writing as fast as I could -- I just let my thoughts pour from my head into my fingers and onto the screen. I wrote from my heart, from the love that I had for Bruce.
"After Bruce's death, I still felt the urge to write and was encouraged by many to keep on writing. I began a blog entitled, Deb After Bruce. I continued to blog for two more years. It was my grief therapy...Since Bruce's death, I have reached out to other women who found themselves suddenly alone.
"This proactive approach in helping others helped me move through my own grief. Women in Transition is now a local group of widows who meet monthly to support, encourage and yes, even learn to laugh again. Helping other women who find themselves on my same path has made my life feel purposeful once again."
"Cancer has touched my life in many ways. My first knowledge of the word cancer was at a very early age. My mom died of breast cancer when I was 10 years old. My dad got kidney cancer in my first year of college, and I dropped out to care for him. Then it was the death of my best friend, my brother Mark. He died of esophagus cancer at the age of 44.
"I myself have been put through many cancer scares. After many biopsies I chose to have a double mastectomy. With my strong family history and after doing genetic testing, to me it was an obvious decision. I was always told it wasn't if I was going to get breast cancer, it was when.
"This past November after a biopsy I was told I had follicular thyroid cancer. I was devastated. Here I thought I got rid of the one cancer I was going to get and now this. So I scheduled surgery two weeks later and lucky for me the pathology came back no cancer. I was shocked, but very grateful.
"Once again I felt I was given another chance. I always thought I would get cancer in my lifetime, with such a strong family history and with everyone in my family dying so young. I decided at an early age I was going to be as proactive as I can be; I wasn't going to wait around for cancer to get me first.
"My dream would be for the next generation to not even know the word cancer. Just think what a wonderful world that would be."
"Hello, my name is Terry Casey. I have been involved with Relay For Life for 20 years. Never did I imagine that I would be one sharing my survival story. It was always about someone else.
"I am currently undergoing treatment for rectal cancer. On Sept. 4, 2009, I was diagnosed with cancer while having a colonoscopy. Prior to this the doctors were treating my symptoms as though I had internal hemorrhoids that were bleeding. An ultrasound was performed to stage the cancer so that a treatment plan could be put in place. The results were stage 3 rectal cancer. This is the stage most colon and rectal cancers are found because the symptoms can be so subtle.
"I went through 28 radiation treatments while also wearing a small pump that delivered the chemo into my veins continuously for the entire 5 ½ weeks. Then my body had a two-month rest period so that the tissue around the tumor could heal from the radiation. Surgery was the longest 5 ½ hours that I don't remember. I have a 10-inch incision to show for it and plumbing that is still healing. I will have more chemo after recovering from surgery.
"My prognosis is very good. I have heard the word "cure" from all of my doctors. I am very fortunate to have an experienced and dedicated team of healthcare workers. Unfortunately their knowledge comes from too much experience treating colorectal cancers. I have a great support system with family and friends, who are willing to do anything at the drop of a hat. I am thankful for the American Cancer Society, with their funding for research, they are making more birthdays possible.
"Although I am not yet 50 years old, a colonoscopy was used to diagnose my cancer. It is estimated that if every one of us had our colonoscopies on schedule we could eliminate 70%-90% of colorectal cancers. Which sounds better? What I have described above or the minor discomfort of a routine colonoscopy. I hope you choose the colonoscopy."
Editor's Note: Look for more details on the 2010 Relay for Life of Pierce County in the March 25 print edition of the River Falls Journal. People can also learn more about the event at www.cancer.org -- click on Relay, then input River Falls' name or zip code to find local information.