Cancer is an insulting disease.
It arises from within, when our bodies' own cells betray us and turn malignant. The treatment is often invasive and debilitating, leaving the sufferer weak, nauseated, and bereft of dignity. It makes the victim dependent on others to do the things they would normally do without a second thought.
A group of cancer survivors met on Tuesday evening at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Granite Falls to share fellowship and celebrate their victory over this dreaded disease. The second annual survivors dinner was organized by the Yellow Medicine County chapter of the Relay For Life, the main volunteer fundraising organization for the American Cancer Society.
Photo by Steve Browne
Zee Anne Reishus, 14-month cancer survivor, was keynote speaker at the second annual cancer survivors dinner, sponsored by the Yellow Medicine County Relay For Life.
Dinner was served by Deb Ladner and her team, the "Tumor Raiders," volunteers from Granite Falls Hospital and Manor. Ladner said volunteers are generally survivors, family of survivors, or people whose lives have been touched in some way by cancer.
According to Rhonda Marcus, captain of the Yellow Medicine County Relay For Life, and six-year cancer survivor, "The Survivor dinner is an opportunity for survivors to get together with their caregivers to network and support, and an opportunity to talk about what the ACS can do for them."
About 60 survivors and caregivers showed up. Marcus said the attendees were about half caregivers, but many of the caregivers were cancer survivors themselves. She said she was disappointed one survivor who sent her regrets wasn't attending.
"She said she couldn't attend because her cancer had recurred so she wasn't a survivor," Marcus said. "But you're basically a survivor from the day you hear those words, 'You have cancer.'"
Natalie Lynner, Relay For Life team captain from Clarkfield and three-year lung cancer survivor, agreed.
"The second you get it they tell you you have a 50-50 chance of living," Lynner said.
Lynner's team of 15 survivors will participate in the Relay For Life, June 10-11, in Clarkfield. Teams will gather on the track near the old high school and walk in relays from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Donors pay for the privilege of walking with a survivor.
Teams also hold other fundraising events throughout the year.
"Last week we had a burger feed in Clarkfield and raised $1,200," Lynner said.
According to Marcus the money raised for the ACS goes for medical research, education, health care issue advocacy, and support for cancer sufferers.
"The reason I do Relay For Life is to support what ACS does in prevention and cancer detection so my children someday won't have to deal with cancer," Marcus said.
Dealing with cancer can last a lifetime. Mary Jo Bakken is a 17-year survivor. Her caregiver is her sister-in-law Kathy Roden.
"She had high radiation treatment and she still lives with the effects," Roden said. "But she's got a real positive attitude and we consider it gone."
Asked if she wonders if it will ever come back, Bakken replied simply, "Yes."
After dinner there was an address by 14-month survivor Zee Anne Reishus, a teacher for 33 years, organist and choir director. Reishus shared a message given her by her cancer mentor after her first round of treatment.
"There's this little club you never wanted to belong to, but once you're in you're glad you're not alone,"?she said.