MARSHALL - They're coming together for many reasons - to honor a loved one, to help find a cure. But another of the big messages at Relay for Life is that people affected by cancer are not alone.
Area residents, including cancer survivors and supporters, will be gathering at the 19th annual Relay for Life Feat at the Fairgrounds tonight. A total of 17 teams will be walking to raise money to help raise awareness and fight cancer.
This year, cancer survivors Patti Dold and Kim Leach will be the honorary Relay for Life chairpeople. Both women said this week they're looking forward to the event.
"It's an opportunity for me to give back," Leach said, especially for other people fighting cancer. The American Cancer Society, she said, "is such a great organization for helping people. I had never realized some of the things they did for people."
"I'm ready to do this. I probably wouldn't have been ready before," Dold said.
Dold, a Marshall resident, was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago, after a routine checkup.
"I kept thinking, 'I feel great. How can I have cancer in me?'" she said. Some of her first thoughts were of how to break the news to her husband Ken and their two sons. "Once you hear it and kind of absorb it, you have that thing of, 'What am I gonna do?'"
After consulting with her doctor, Dold decided to have a mastectomy, and she also underwent chemotherapy at the Mayo Clinic.
Dold said humor was one thing that helped her through the treatment process. A good support network was also important, she said.
"I'm very thankful," Dold said of being a survivor. "I'm nicer now. I'm a better person, because you think, 'What really matters?'"
Leach lives on a farm near Milroy with her husband, Dan. She was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in March 2011. Her cancer was at stage 2 and had spread into her lymph nodes. Leach underwent chemotherapy and opted to have a double mastectomy, even though the cancer was only on one side of her body.
"I knew I never, ever wanted to go through that again," she said.
Leach has been in remission since Jan. 23.
While fighting cancer was a terrible experience, Leach said she tried to remain positive.
"Having a faith that you would get through it was a huge part of the battle," she said. Being able to talk with supportive people like family and friends - even some strangers - was crucial, too.
"That really made a difference for me, being able to say how I felt about it," she said.
Feat at the Fairgrounds will begin at 7 p.m. today at the Lyon County Fairgrounds. Opening ceremonies will include an introduction of this year's honorary chairpersons and a survivor's lap, followed by the lighting of luminarias around 9 p.m. The Relay for Life walk and a variety of family events will continue through the night, with a closing ceremony early Saturday morning.
Both Dold and Leach said getting to meet people and share stories will be one of the most important parts of Relay for Life.
"Nothing is better than hearing from people who have been there," Dold said.
5-9 p.m. Whopper wagon
5-10 p.m. Silent auction
5-10 p.m. Education table
6-7 p.m. Live entertainment
7 p.m. Opening ceremonies
8:15 p.m. Bubble gum dive
9 p.m. Luminaria lighting ceremony
10 p.m. Scavenger hunt
10 p.m. Beautiful Lengths (Cutting for a Cure)
11 p.m. Quinn Horvath and Friends
Midnight Frozen T-shirt contest
1-2 a.m. Minute to Win It
2 a.m. Relay Feud
7 a.m. Closing ceremonies