Cancer patients, survivors use event for solidarity, hope and awareness
For those without cancer, this weekend's American Cancer Society Relay for Life is designed to offer a venue to support those fighting the disease. But for those who are fighting or have beaten cancer, it's an act of solidarity, hope and awarenes...
For those without cancer, this weekend's American Cancer Society Relay for Life is designed to offer a venue to support those fighting the disease.
But for those who are fighting or have beaten cancer, it's an act of solidarity, hope and awareness.
"There's strength in numbers," said Mary Persson, a cancer survivor from Mitchell. "Hopefully, it makes people aware that haven't been touched by cancer and ... helps those that are trying to cope with cancer."
Persson and Hunter Bork, 18, of Mount Vernon, are the honorary survivor co-chairmen of the walk, which begins at 6 p.m. Friday at the Davison County 4-H Building in Mitchell.
The event is dedicated to the memory of Maggie Nelson, of Mitchell, who died Dec. 9. Nelson, a longtime supporter of the American Cancer Society, beat her own battle with cancer but later died from an unrelated ailment.
Through donations, fundraising and luminaries, last year's Relay For Life raised approximately $15,000 and had 500 people in attendance.
This year, a "Survivor Celebration" meal will take place at 6 p.m. After a presentation, the laps will begin at 7:30 and feature live music. A luminaria ceremony will take place at 9:45 p.m.
A walk and youth activities will continue overnight with members of the Mitchell FCCLA and others participating. While the doors will eventually be locked, participants are free to leave at any time.
The walk signifies what American Cancer Society spokeswoman Roberta Clark described as a cancer patient's journey through the disease.
"We have a group of young people that will be walking all night long to signify the cancer patient's journey through the darkness of treatment and the daylight of hope," Clark, of Mitchell, said. "That's pretty special."
For Bork, a senior at Mount Vernon High School, the event is something he's excited to participate in. After being diagnosed with bone cancer in his left leg in May, his leg was amputated on July 31.
He will use forearm crutches to help lead the walk this weekend. While he said he sometimes gets "weird" reactions from people in public, Bork is excited to interact with others at the event.
Bork is currently undergoing chemotherapy, which dramatically weakens his immune system. Being in public isn't recommended, but Bork said he's looking forward to spending as much time at the event as he can.
"(It) is kind of a risk, but I'm hoping to stay longer than what everybody tells me, too," he said.
Even though Persson has been cancer-free for three and a half years, she still visits the doctor regularly for checkups. It's a process that she hopes others will be encouraged to emulate by the Relay for Life.
"Some people get to feeling sick and they just put it off," Persson said. "I just encourage people to do their regular checkups because cancer knows no age limit."