Posts tagged with American Cancer Society

Join Us For Rockin’ For Relay 2014

Please join us for Rockin' For Relay 2014!!!

Sunday, March 9th, 2014 2 - 6pm

Cider Gallery 810 Pennsylvania St Lawrence, KS

Free Admission Cash Bar Awesome Food Live Music from The Tone Benders

All proceeds benefit The American Cancer Society's Relay For Life of Douglas County.

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2014 Relay For Life of Douglas County Kick-Off Celebration - Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

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Please Join Us!!!

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2014 Relay Kick-Off Celebration Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 5:30-7:30pm (Open House Format) Free State High School Commons Area 4700 Overland Drive Lawrence, KS

We're really excited about our Kick-Off Celebration on Tuesday, September 17th and hope you're excited about it too!!! Please join us in the Free State High School Commons Area between 5:30 and 7:30pm that evening for lots of food, information about getting involved in Relay and the American Cancer Society.

Please invite your friends and families, share our event on your Facebook page and make sure that anyone you know who may be interested in Relay is invited to attend.

Papa Keno's in Downtown Lawrence has signed on as a Diamond Level Corporate Sponsor this year, donating over $5,000 worth of food throughout the Relay Season and they will have plenty of awesome pizza available for us, not only at Kick Off, but also at every Team Captain Meeting as well as at the Survivor Tent for Survivors at Relay. Please join the Committee in thanking Papa Keno's for their support of Relay 2014!!!

In addition to Papa Keno's pizza, we will have chair massages from Pinnacle Career Institute and face painting for the kids from Happy Face Painting.

Please join us for a fun evening with lots of information! The event is an Open House format, so please don't feel obligated to be there the whole time. Just come when it's convenient for you!

If you're unable to attend, you can still register for the event online. Through September 30th, the registration fee has been reduced to $5 per participant (but remember, you still need to raise $95 in addition to that $5 for a total of $100 to get your participant t-shirt). To get the registration discount, use the code "relay" when you register at www.relayforlife.org/DouglasKS.

We hope to see you there! Please let us know if you have any questions! We're looking forward to kicking off Relay 2014 with you on Tuesday, September 17th in the Free State High School Commons Area with each of you!!!

Happy Relaying!

Amanda Davis & Dae Curtiss 2014 Event Co-Chairs

Relay For Life Kick-Off!

Relay For Life Kick-Off! by Amanda Woodward Davis

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Relay Idol Competition at Relay For Life of Douglas County

Got talent? Prove it!

Introducing Relay Idol to Relay For Life of Douglas County

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Free State High School Track Lawrence, KS

Win 2 Thursday tickets AND 4 Sunday tickets to Country Stampede

Auditions - 6:00 to 7:00 PM Finalist Sing-Off - 8:00 PM Winner Announced - 9:00 PM

How it works: Auditions will be held at the Relay For Life event on Friday, June 7th on the Southeast Deck of the Free State High School Stadium Concession Stand/Locker Rooms. Each contestant will have 2 minutes to show the local celebrity judges what they’ve got. All performances must be a capella (no accompaniment, no music, etc.). Registration is not required, but auditions will begin at 6:00PM and end sharply at 7:00PM in order to give judges enough time to pick the top 3 performers.

Judges will select the top 3 finalists to sing/perform in front of the general audience at 8:00PM (again, singing a capella – no accompaniment, no music) on the Relay Stage on the west side of the track at mid-field. When all 3 finalists have completed their performance, they will begin seeking donations from around the stadium. Finalists will have until 8:45PM to collect donations from their fans. The finalist with the most donations collected at 8:45PM will be crowned “Relay Idol” at approximately 9:00PM.

All monies collected will be donated to Relay For Life. If the finalist is a registered participant at Relay For Life, the money will count toward their individual total. If the finalist is not a registered participant at Relay For Life, the money will count toward the general fundraising total.

For more information, contact DCRelayForLifeOnline@gmail.com.

Relay Idol Flyer

Relay Idol Flyer by Amanda Woodward Davis

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Rockin’ for Relay Starts Rockin’ Friday March 1st at 7pm

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Phil's Phighters Relay for Life Team is pleased to invite everyone to attend Rockin' for Relay 2013

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When: Friday, March 1st, 2013

Bidding from 7-9pm

Live Music by Landrush from 7-10pm

Where: Maceli's (1031 New Hampshire Street, Lawrence)

Facebook Event Page

This is a silent auction and live music event with over $30,000 worth of items to bid on.

Items include:

  • 4 One-Day Park Hopper Passes to Walt Disney World
  • Friday Evening Happy Hour from Howl at the Moon
  • $500 Gift Certificate from Twin Mountain Bed & Breakfast in Jackson Hole, WY
  • A COACH Purse
  • 4 Sunday Tickets to Country Stampede
  • Weekend Overnight & $50 Gift Certificate to Three Fires Steakhouse from Prairie Band Casino
  • A Sonicare Toothbrush
  • KU Items
  • Golf Packages
  • A Wine Making Starter Kit
  • Photography Packages
  • Restaurant Gift Cards
  • Caribbean Hotel Accommodations in Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados (does not include airfare or all-inclusive fee)
  • Many Handmade Items

Over 275 items to choose from. Items range in value from $5 to $750.

Visit www.PhilsPhighters.org for pictures of auction items as well as a copy of Friday night's program.

Please contact Amanda Davis at (785) 550-4848 or amanda@philsphighters.org with questions or for more information.

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Phil’s Phighters plan 3rd Annual Benefit Auction for Relay for Life - Rockin’ for Relay 2013

Phil's Phighters is pleased to announce that we are partnering with Maceli's for our 3rd Annual Benefit Auction for Relay for Life of Douglas County.

We plan to have live music throughout the event and will have much more room to move around at this new venue. A special thanks to Steve Maceli and his staff for their generosity!

What: Rockin' for Relay 2013

When: Friday, March 1st, 2013 - 7-10pm

Where: Maceli's (1031 New Hampshire Street, Lawrence, KS)

For a list of donated items and more details on the event, please visit www.philsphighters.org or email amanda@philsphighters.org.

Team Relay Website - http://main.acsevents.org/goto/PhilsPhighters2013

2013 Rockin for Relay Facebook Invitation - http://on.fb.me/RjvcXY

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/PhilsPhighters

Twitter - https://twitter.com/philsphighters

Etsy - http://t.co/8wQeMocR

Rockin' for Relay 2013

Rockin' for Relay 2013 by Amanda Woodward Davis

[2]: http://mailto: amanda@philsphighters.org

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Relay For Life of Douglas County raises record $186,000 in fight against cancer

Four-year cancer survivor Carolyn Downing helps carry a chain representing the total number of survivor years during the 2012 Relay for Life of Douglas County event held Friday, June 8, 2012, at the Free State High School track. In total, over 2,200 years were represented by the chain.

Four-year cancer survivor Carolyn Downing helps carry a chain representing the total number of survivor years during the 2012 Relay for Life of Douglas County event held Friday, June 8, 2012, at the Free State High School track. In total, over 2,200 years were represented by the chain. by John Young

What a night!

The weather was nearly perfect for this year’s Relay For Life of Douglas County event June 8-9 at Free State High School, and its 681 participants celebrated raising a record $186,000 for the American Cancer Society. The money will be used for cancer research and to provide services and programs for cancer patients.

The amount is the largest in the event’s 14-year history and surpassed the organizers’ goal of $175,000. Last year’s event raised $164,000.

The event began at 7 p.m. with 295 survivors walking the first lap around the track while others cheered them on. There were one-year, five-year and 20-year survivors — even a 51-year-old survivor.

Then, 74 teams were introduced as they made their way around the track. They had names like Phil’s Phighters, Cancer Busters, Deerfield Divas, Barb’s Forget Me Nots and Therapy Pirates of the cure-ibbean.

After the introduction, participants, family members, friends and community members started walking around the track that was lined with 3,434 luminary bags that were decorated in honor of cancer survivors and in memory of those who had lost their lives.

When people weren’t walking, they were visiting, camping out, enjoying food, playing games or bidding on silent auction items. More than 100 items were up for bid, and they raised a record $5,400.

As it started to get dark, Dr. Rod Barnes, of Lawrence, gave an inspiring speech, which had a dose of humor, about his battle with leukemia and his bone-marrow transplant.

At dark, the stadium lights were turned off and participants lit the candles inside the luminary bags. It was a moving moment for many, as people held hands, hugged and shed tears for those fighting cancer or who had lost their battle.

After the luminary ceremony, the celebration began. Games, dancing and activities took place throughout the night. Some people were up all night while others caught some shut-eye in sleeping bags or chairs.

At 5 a.m., as the sun came up, participants started to clean up their camping sites and then took their last lap around the track at 5:30 a.m.

Co-chairs Barb Gorman and Shelle Arnold described it as a “success.” They are already thinking about next year.

Here are pictures from the event:

Cancer survivors kick off the 2012 Relay For Life of Douglas event by walking the first lap around the track at Free State High School.

Cancer survivors kick off the 2012 Relay For Life of Douglas event by walking the first lap around the track at Free State High School.

Team Paulsen makes it way around the track during Relay For Life of Douglas County.

Team Paulsen makes it way around the track during Relay For Life of Douglas County.

Forty-three-year cancer survivor Gary Watson, Lawrence, looks at the luminaria lining the track as he participates in the Relay for Life of Douglas County event held Friday, June 8, 2012, at the Free State High School track.

Forty-three-year cancer survivor Gary Watson, Lawrence, looks at the luminaria lining the track as he participates in the Relay for Life of Douglas County event held Friday, June 8, 2012, at the Free State High School track. by John Young

Cancer survivors make their way around the track at Free State High School during this year's Relay For Life of Douglas County event.

Cancer survivors make their way around the track at Free State High School during this year's Relay For Life of Douglas County event.

Twenty-year cancer survivor Jeff Miller, Lawrence, proudly walks the survivor lap carrying his 3-year-old grandson Caden Pritchard, of Eudora, during the Relay for Life of Douglas county event held Friday, June 8, 2012, at the Free State High School track.

Twenty-year cancer survivor Jeff Miller, Lawrence, proudly walks the survivor lap carrying his 3-year-old grandson Caden Pritchard, of Eudora, during the Relay for Life of Douglas county event held Friday, June 8, 2012, at the Free State High School track. by John Young

A bubble machine helps decorate a luminary honoring Carrie Rangel during the 2012 Relay for Life of Douglas County event.

A bubble machine helps decorate a luminary honoring Carrie Rangel during the 2012 Relay for Life of Douglas County event. by John Young

Cancer survivors and their caregivers make their way around the track at Free State High School during Relay For Life of Douglas County.

Cancer survivors and their caregivers make their way around the track at Free State High School during Relay For Life of Douglas County.

Susan Harrison places a luminary along the track as her mother-in-law Barbara, husband Daryle, and son Jake watch during Relay for Life of Douglas County on Friday, June 8, 2012 at the Free State High School track.

Susan Harrison places a luminary along the track as her mother-in-law Barbara, husband Daryle, and son Jake watch during Relay for Life of Douglas County on Friday, June 8, 2012 at the Free State High School track. by John Young

Participants walk past luminaries spelling out "Relay 4 Life."

Participants walk past luminaries spelling out "Relay 4 Life." by John Young

Relay for Life participants walk past a luminary in memory of Debbie Toms, who died at age 58 from an aggressive brain tumor. Toms was a longtime nurse at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Relay for Life participants walk past a luminary in memory of Debbie Toms, who died at age 58 from an aggressive brain tumor. Toms was a longtime nurse at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. by John Young

Ashley Conway, left, carries a luminary honoring her mother, Gail Vielma, as she walks with Dana Conway during the 2012 Relay for Life of Douglas County event.

Ashley Conway, left, carries a luminary honoring her mother, Gail Vielma, as she walks with Dana Conway during the 2012 Relay for Life of Douglas County event. by John Young

The winner of the Spirit Stick competition at Relay For Life of Douglas County was Team Paulsen! The theme this year was "Step by Step — Each Closer to a Cure."

The winner of the Spirit Stick competition at Relay For Life of Douglas County was Team Paulsen! The theme this year was "Step by Step — Each Closer to a Cure."

The Bosom Buddies team makes its way around the track at Free State High School during the 2012 Relay For Life of Douglas.

The Bosom Buddies team makes its way around the track at Free State High School during the 2012 Relay For Life of Douglas.

Longtime Lawrence doctor Rod Barnes talked about his battle with leukemia and bone marrow transplant before the luminaria ceremony at Relay For Life of Douglas County.

Longtime Lawrence doctor Rod Barnes talked about his battle with leukemia and bone marrow transplant before the luminaria ceremony at Relay For Life of Douglas County. by Karrey Britt

About midnight, Relay For Life of Douglas County participants hang out in the their "camping" areas on the Free State High School event. The overnight event, June 8-9, raised money for the American Cancer Society.

About midnight, Relay For Life of Douglas County participants hang out in the their "camping" areas on the Free State High School event. The overnight event, June 8-9, raised money for the American Cancer Society. by Karrey Britt

An extra large luminaria at Relay For of Douglas County honors Dr. Gordon Klatt, the founder of Relay For Life. Each year, 4 million people take part in a Relay For Life event in more than 5,000 communities. It is estimated the events have raised $3 billion since the first one in 1986. The fundraising idea was sparked by Klatt, a colorectal surgeon in Tacoma, Wash., who wanted to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of his patients. In 1985, he walked around a track for 24 hours, and people paid $25 to walk or run with him. He raised $27,000 and decided to form a team the next year. It grew from there.

An extra large luminaria at Relay For of Douglas County honors Dr. Gordon Klatt, the founder of Relay For Life. Each year, 4 million people take part in a Relay For Life event in more than 5,000 communities. It is estimated the events have raised $3 billion since the first one in 1986. The fundraising idea was sparked by Klatt, a colorectal surgeon in Tacoma, Wash., who wanted to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of his patients. In 1985, he walked around a track for 24 hours, and people paid $25 to walk or run with him. He raised $27,000 and decided to form a team the next year. It grew from there. by Karrey Britt

The WellCommons Warriors team stops for a picture after making its first lap at Relay For Life of Douglas County.

The WellCommons Warriors team stops for a picture after making its first lap at Relay For Life of Douglas County.

Youth enjoy a variety of activities at Relay For of Douglas County in the kids zone.

Youth enjoy a variety of activities at Relay For of Douglas County in the kids zone.

Watch out for the Killer Bees team as walk around the track during Relay For Life of Douglas County.

Watch out for the Killer Bees team as walk around the track during Relay For Life of Douglas County.

The Lawrence High School team raised $38,398 for the American Cancer Society by participating in Relay For Life of Douglas County. It was the highest amount raised by a team, and its team member Bob Silipigni, far right, raised the highest amount of anyone at a whopping $35,411. Way to go, Bob!

The Lawrence High School team raised $38,398 for the American Cancer Society by participating in Relay For Life of Douglas County. It was the highest amount raised by a team, and its team member Bob Silipigni, far right, raised the highest amount of anyone at a whopping $35,411. Way to go, Bob!

The Our Angels team makes its way around the track at Free State High School during the 2012 Relay For Life of Douglas County.

The Our Angels team makes its way around the track at Free State High School during the 2012 Relay For Life of Douglas County.

A sign at Relay For Life of Douglas provides inspiration in the fight against cancer.

A sign at Relay For Life of Douglas provides inspiration in the fight against cancer.

Relay For Life of Douglas County participants turn on the candle lights inside luminary bags in honor of a cancer survivor or in memory of someone who lost their battle.

Relay For Life of Douglas County participants turn on the candle lights inside luminary bags in honor of a cancer survivor or in memory of someone who lost their battle.

A view of the 2012 Relay For Life of Douglas County during the luminary ceremony.

A view of the 2012 Relay For Life of Douglas County during the luminary ceremony.

Relay For Life of Douglas County participants hold their team's spirit sticks as the judges decide on a winner.

Relay For Life of Douglas County participants hold their team's spirit sticks as the judges decide on a winner.

A cancer survivor watches a slideshow that ran during Relay For Life of Douglas County. The slideshow had the names of cancer survivors and those who had lost their lives to cancer as well as those currently fighting the disease. The slideshow ran throughout the night.

A cancer survivor watches a slideshow that ran during Relay For Life of Douglas County. The slideshow had the names of cancer survivors and those who had lost their lives to cancer as well as those currently fighting the disease. The slideshow ran throughout the night. by Karrey Britt

Relay For Life of Douglas County participants play "Simon Says" in early morning hours. The overnight event raises money in the fight against cancer.

Relay For Life of Douglas County participants play "Simon Says" in early morning hours. The overnight event raises money in the fight against cancer. by Karrey Britt

In the wee morning hours, the sign is changed from hope to cure.

In the wee morning hours, the sign is changed from hope to cure.

The 3,434 luminary bags that lined the track at Relay For Life of Douglas County were weighted down by canned foods. After the event, the food was donated to Douglas County's food bank Just Food.

The 3,434 luminary bags that lined the track at Relay For Life of Douglas County were weighted down by canned foods. After the event, the food was donated to Douglas County's food bank Just Food. by Karrey Britt

In foreground, Shelle Arnold, left, and Barb Gorman walk their last lap at Relay For Life of Douglas County. The two spent countless hours organizing the event as co-chairs. The event raises money for the American Cancer Society. They were co-chairs in 2011 and plan to do it again next year.

In foreground, Shelle Arnold, left, and Barb Gorman walk their last lap at Relay For Life of Douglas County. The two spent countless hours organizing the event as co-chairs. The event raises money for the American Cancer Society. They were co-chairs in 2011 and plan to do it again next year. by Karrey Britt

Relay For Life of Douglas County participants walk their last lap around the track at Free State High School during the closing ceremony at 5:30 a.m. June 9, 2012.

Relay For Life of Douglas County participants walk their last lap around the track at Free State High School during the closing ceremony at 5:30 a.m. June 9, 2012. by Karrey Britt

Barb Gorman, left, and Shelle Arnold, co-chairs of Relay For Life of Douglas County, walk their last lap around the track during the event, which raises money for the American Cancer Society. Gorman is a cancer survivor and Arnold relays for her daughter-in-law Becky Arnold who died from a rare form of bone cancer at age 27.

Barb Gorman, left, and Shelle Arnold, co-chairs of Relay For Life of Douglas County, walk their last lap around the track during the event, which raises money for the American Cancer Society. Gorman is a cancer survivor and Arnold relays for her daughter-in-law Becky Arnold who died from a rare form of bone cancer at age 27. by Karrey Britt

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Relay For Life of Douglas County - Please join us tonight!

Cancer survivors kick off the start of the 2011 Relay For Life of Douglas County at Free State High School.

Cancer survivors kick off the start of the 2011 Relay For Life of Douglas County at Free State High School. by Kevin Anderson

We're Ready to Relay!!

The community is invited to join us this evening as we gather to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease. Relay For Life of Douglas County supports the American Cancer Society through our annual fundraising event at Free State High School's track, 4700 Overland Drive in Lawrence.

The Schedule:

5:30 p.m. — Food Vendors, Games for Kids and Awesome Silent Auction will begin;

6:45 p.m. — Presentation of Colors;

7 p.m. — Opening Ceremony, Survivors Lap & Team Introduction Lap;

9:15 p.m. — Luminaria Ceremony with Dr. Rod Barnes as keynote speaker and time to Pause to Remember;

5:30 a.m. Saturday — Closing Ceremony begins.

Come join us. Walk a lap. Cheer on the Survivors who walk their Victory Lap. Purchase a luminaria to honor a loved one. Buy a basket at the fabulous Silent Auction. Take in the ceremonies. Enjoy the food. Help to fund research as we fight against cancer. You will experience a life-changing event!

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Relay For Life co-chair and cancer survivor organizes Lawrence event to fight back, spend more time with grandchildren

Editor's Note: Area residents are sharing stories about how cancer has touched their lives leading up to Friday's Relay For Life of Douglas County. Here is Barb's story:

When I became a member of the planning committee for the Douglas County Relay For Life five years ago, I really knew very little about Relay. I was recently retired, still grieving the death of my mother a very short time after her diagnosis of leukemia, and I felt a need to connect with something positive in dealing with cancer. The wonderful co-chairs at that time, Tina and Debbie, made me welcome, explained what was going on, and off we went. The first Relay I attended had me hooked for good – the blend of celebration for the Survivors, remembering those who fought hard but are no longer with us, and the emphasis on fighting back against the dreaded disease through education, research, and a more healthy lifestyle.

As I get older, it seems more and more friends have been struck with cancer. I rejoice with them at each success, each 'good' medical appointment. I cry for and with them when the news is not good. I grieve with each one who leaves us physically but never in our memories and hearts.

My family unfortunately has a history of cancers — father, mother, brother, and three years ago I became one of the survivors. Even more reason to fight back!

I have a lovely daughter, a hard-working, caring son-in-law, and a wonderful, handsome son, each with children, and now I REALLY want to fight back!

My grandchildren are so precious to me, from step-granddaughter Jessie who is about to begin work toward her Master in Psychology degree, to granddaughter Beth, just graduated from high school and headed to college in the fall with the whole world in front of her. Next is grandson Quint who delights in how much taller he is than I, is a super 'computerologist', as he used to call it — and is a successful high school sophomore. Sweet Emily is in the process of having a lot of fun in high school and finding her niche. And the crazy, adorable, laugh-a-minute, 7-year-old twins, Eli and Livie — what else can I say. These are the main reasons I fight back, and really Why I Relay.

Please join me at Friday, June 8, at the Free State High School track, to experience so many emotions — you'll be hooked, too!

— Barb Gorman, event Co-Chair for Relay For Life of Douglas County

Barbara Gorman, a breast cancer survivor, became co-chairman of Relay For Life of Douglas County in 2011 and the theme was "Hats Off To A Cure." She is co-chair again this year.

Barbara Gorman, a breast cancer survivor, became co-chairman of Relay For Life of Douglas County in 2011 and the theme was "Hats Off To A Cure." She is co-chair again this year.

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Relay For Life of Douglas County observed National Cancer Survivors Day

Relay For Life of Douglas County volunteers hosted the annual Cancer Survivor Dinner today at Free State High School. 160 survivors and caregivers were honored on Cancer Survivors Day as the kick off for Relay For Life Week in Douglas County. The Relay is the major fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

Among those attending were 20 year survivor, Patricia Chapman, who was also celebrating her 70th birthday today.

Survivors will walk their Victory Lap at 7:00 p.m. to open the Relay on Friday, June 8th at the Free State High School Track, 4800 Overland Drive in Lawrence. Following the Victory Lap, the 74 relay teams will be introduced as the walk begins. At 9:15 p.m., the Luminaria Ceremony begins with the silent lighting of approximately 3,000 candles, each one in honor of a survivor or to remember someone lost to cancer. Teams will walk the track throughout the night.

The event is open to the public. Music, games, food vendors and the silent auction will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Help create a world with less cancer and more birthdays by participating in the Relay For Life on Friday, June 8th.

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LMH Surgical Services relays in honor, memory of colleagues affected by ‘ugly disease’ called cancer

http://wellcommons.com/photos/2008/jul/26/152293/

Editor's Note: Area residents are sharing stories about how cancer has touched their lives leading up to Relay For Life of Douglas County. Here's a story from Lawrence Memorial Hospital's Surgical Services:

BY LMH SURGICAL SERVICES

LMH Surgical Services Relay for Life team is a unique team of individuals who are friends and co-workers. We see each other day in and day out, at our best, at our worst, when we are lively, when we are tired from working all night, when we are happy, and when we are cranky. But no matter the day or the mood, we love where we are, we love who we work with, and we are one great big family.

Over the years, we have been through a lot together. As we get ready for Relay for Life every year, we are reminded just how much cancer has impacted our department, our “family." The following stories are about these people mentioned earlier that are together day in and day out … when we are well and when we are sick. So you ask, “Why do we relay???” The answer is simple. For these people and all those we know who have had to deal with this ugly disease we call cancer.

HERE ARE OUR HEROES:

Donna Flory, Breast Cancer, Diagnosed 1984, 28-year SURVIVOR

This is Donna’s 28th year being cancer free. She was diagnosed at the age of 36 with breast cancer. Treatment recommended at that time was a modified radical mastectomy, which she had done. She had two types of breast cancer at that time, one which tended to be bilateral. A year later when she started reconstructive surgery, she had a simple mastectomy on the other breast and was reconstructed bilaterally. As her plastic surgeon said, “That way I can make you a matched set.”

Donna said she would have never chosen to be given a cancer diagnosis, but she knows now that her life has been richer for the experience. She said it made her evaluate her life and prioritize differently. It has made her learn who her true friends are, and what really important things matter. Like family, friends and good health. Everything else is minor in comparison. This past year, Donna participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-day walk in Dallas, Texas, and said it was an amazing experience. There were over 2,500 registered walkers and they walked 20 miles a day for 3 days, for a total of 60 miles. She hopes to walk again this November in Dallas with her co-worker and good friend, Lynn Alexander, who is also a breast cancer survivor.

Donna has been a nurse in the pre-op/post-op area of Surgical Services at LMH for almost 20 years.


Judy Hollingshead, Breast Cancer, Diagnosed May 1986 and 1995, 26-year SURVIVOR

Judy was 36 and single when diagnosed with intraductal cancer of the left breast in May 1986. She found the pea-sized lump during a self-exam. She chose to have a lumpectomy, axillary dissection and 6 weeks of radiation, followed by surgical insertion of radiation seeds into her breast. She had to be in isolation for a short time. During her recovery, she developed seromas in her left axilla and had to have them aspirated in the surgeon’s office several times.

In 1995, a routine mammogram detected a small tumor in her left breast. A biopsy determined she had several small tumors in the same location as the first tumor. She then underwent a left mastectomy with a TRAM Flap Reconstruction. Because of her prior radiation, an area on her breast didn’t heal correctly, so she had to return to surgery for a revision. After healing, she received chemotherapy at Dr. Stein’s office, before LMH Oncology Services opened. Judy says, “I am now a strong advocate for early detection because I believe it saves lives. I now have a pink ribbon tattoo on my left ankle to celebrate being a survivor.”

Judy is a pre-admission nurse at LMH in the Surgical Services department. She has been at LMH for 36 years.


Liz Durant, Breast Cancer, Diagnosed October 22, 1993, 18-year SURVIVOR

Liz was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 36 years old, was married and going to nursing school. Her daughter was 2 and her son was 6 years old. She remembers thinking "my kids are so young", not realizing how young she was. She prayed and asked God to please, just let her see them grow up. 
She wouldn’t say she was surprised to find it. She always knew it could happen to her, as she has a strong family history of breast cancer. Her grandmother was 33 when she died from breast cancer. Her mom was diagnosed with it at 40 and again at 65. Later she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, even though she had had her ovaries removed years before. 
Today, her daughter is in college, her son is married and she has three beautiful grandchildren. Her mom is 89 and still going strong.

Liz says she is privileged to work at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in the surgery department, and is blessed to have been there for 12 years.


Lynn Alexander, Breast Cancer, Diagnosed in 2002, 10-year SURVIVOR

Lynn was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 at the age of 39. Prior to her diagnosis, she assumed she would be free from this disease, as she had no indicators to tie her to this illness. She had two children and had breast fed both and had no family history that she was aware of. Then her mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2002, just one month prior to Lynn’s breast cancer diagnosis. Her mom was having routine gallbladder surgery when her ovarian cancer was discovered. When Lynn was diagnosed a month later with breast cancer, they did testing to determine whether they carried the BRCA mutation. It was discovered that one sister had the mutation and the other did not. She and her mother also carry the mutation. She went through surgery and chemotherapy as well as radiation. This year is her tenth year of survivorship but as luck would have it, her cancer has returned again and she is in treatment at this time.

She has learned many things through the years with her cancer ... she has learned who her true friends are … she feels her family is her biggest fan … and she feels she has been given the opportunity to meet some truly amazing people. All told, her life has been enriched significantly through her diagnosis, though it does not define who she is. She is thankful for the 10 cancer free years and remains grateful for every day.

Lynn is a nurse in the pre-op/post-op area of Surgical Services at LMH, and has been at LMH for 22 years.


Jeff Herman, Prostate Cancer, Diagnosed January, 2001, 11-year SURVIVOR

Jeff was 48 when an elevated PSA blood test led to a needle biopsy which ultimately led to a diagnosis of Prostate Cancer. At that time, the best chance for a 15-year survival was a radical prostatectomy, which he chose. He has been cancer free since March 15, 2001.

Jeff says a cancer diagnosis will force anyone to face all of the uncertainties and “what ifs” that go along with those words. It was very easy for him to feel consumed and overwhelmed by the news, and slide that slippery slope to gloom and depression. He had strong family support and many helpful people giving words of encouragement. Jeff said, “But two simple phrases from high school coaches helped me almost daily: ‘When you get knocked down, you’ve got to get back up’, and ‘You can only clear one hurdle at a time’. It sounds kind of corny now, but it helped then.” In the end, Jeff said, “Prayer and faith in God were the greatest comfort.”

Jeff has been a CRNA at LMH for 9 years.


Connie Pelham, Lung Cancer, Diagnosed May, 2006, 6-year SURVIVOR

After diagnosis with a carcinoid lung tumor in May 2006, Connie had a thoracotomy and a right lower lobe resection. She was pronounced in complete remission in May 2011, although she still sees her oncologist once a year. She was blessed to have her husband, Jimmy, by her side while she was recovering. Unfortunately, he has since passed away and she misses him very much. Connie is a scrub and circulating nurse in the operating room, and has worked at LMH for 40 years.


Randy Holm, Prostate Cancer, Diagnosed 11/2/07, 4 ½-year SURVIVOR

Randy didn’t have a big story to submit. He says he is the poster boy for early detection, as his PSAs have remained non-detectable, and he feels he has a 99 percent chance of being "cured", although he says it is foolish to use that word.  It is pretty much a non-event at this time, nothing he dwells on, or affects his daily life. We are super glad Randy is around to celebrate walking proud in the survivor lap!

Randy is a CRNA at the Lawrence Surgery Center and has been a part of the LMH family for 12 years.


Carrie Rangel, Breast Cancer, Diagnosed 11/3/07, 4 ½-year SURVIVOR

Carrie was newly married (12 days) when diagnosed with invasive breast cancer at the age of 31. At that time, she found out she had the BRCA1 genetic mutation. She always thought she would have cancer some day, just not at 31. Her mother and grandfather had both passed away from cancer in the recent past.

She underwent chemotherapy treatments, then bilateral mastectomies with breast reconstruction. She continues to see her oncologist every six months, and gets routine blood tests and ultrasounds to screen for ovarian cancer.

Carrie looks forward to celebrating five years as a survivor this November. She looks back now and actually sees cancer as a positive experience, as it has truly made her a different person. “I try not to sweat the small stuff, I see each day as a blessing and I enjoy God’s beauty every chance I get. My faith, family and friends got me through the tough times, and I learned to cope with this disease after watching my mother gracefully live 5 years with terminal ovarian cancer before she passed away in 2003.” Her husband, Patrick, was by her side the whole time and even restored his 1978 Monte Carlo in hot pink to honor all breast cancer survivors.

Carrie has been a scrub and circulating nurse in the OR at LMH for 12 years, and couldn’t think of a better place to work, or better people to work with. “We’re a family.”


Lynette Herrman, Breast Cancer, 1 ½-Year SURVIVOR

Lynette was diagnosed one-and-a-half years ago with breast cancer. Doctors were sure her breast lump was NOT cancer, but with her persistence and the help of another doctor, she was diagnosed. She had surgery to remove the cancer and is happy to be doing well and living life to its fullest. Oddly enough, her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer just 6 short months after her diagnosis.

Lynette is a nurse in the pre-op/post-op area of Surgical Services at LMH and has been at LMH for about a year.


IN MEMORY OF OUR FRIENDS

Dottie Martin, July 1, 1936 – December 30, 2005

Dottie was our friend, co-worker and someone we miss so much. She had a wonderful, supportive family, but also a second family at LMH. She came to work in the OR in 1977. She retired in 2001, and continued to work with us PRN. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a few short years after retirement and still continued to work until her health no longer allowed. We could always count on Dottie to be honest with her feelings and thoughts. She was curious and very smart. She asked questions and understood complex concepts that helped us all. She was a refreshing person to work with and a wonderful example of how people can work together and get along, even if they don’t always agree. She was a good friend, a loyal colleague and a valuable nurse in our organization.

Dottie passed away December 30, 2005, due to breast cancer.


Chuck Routte, June 3, 1954 – January 3, 2006

Chuck was our friend and co-worker, a CRNA in the OR at LMH. Chuck was kind, hard-working, but also easy going, and never had a bad word to say about anyone. At any given time, you could find him trying to warm himself up with a heating machine we keep in the operating room, and an extra surgical gown on! Those OR’s are brrr…cold!

Chuck was originally diagnosed with Lymphoma in 1985. He went through treatment, and was going along fine when he had a recurrence in the early 1990s. He never complained about his diagnosis or his recurrence, in fact, if you didn’t know his history, you would never know what he had been through. Unfortunately, in the summer of 2005, after most anyone would consider him “cured”, he had yet another recurrence. This time, it was different. It came on suddenly, and it was aggressive. It was so hard to see Chuck’s health fail, and we knew it wasn’t good when he couldn’t return to work. His wife, Yvonne, was by his side to take care of him. Chuck passed away in January 2006 and will be remembered fondly by all of us who were fortunate enough to know him, and work with him.

Chuck was a part of our LMH family for almost 15 years.


Megan Boyd, June 10, 1970 – April 24, 2010

Megan Boyd was our friend and co-worker in the OR at LMH. Megan was an awesome nurse, and an even better friend. You just never knew what she would say next, but she always knew the right thing to say, at the right time. She had two sons, Nathan and Justin, and was married to a wonderful man, Scott. Megan was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma brain cancer on October 15, 2008. She had been suffering from headaches for some time and the one on this particular day sent her to her doctor. Scans revealed she had a brain tumor. After surgery to remove the tumor, Megan underwent chemotherapy and radiation. She even returned to work, through multiple visits to Duke University for a clinical trial of chemotherapy to treat her cancer. Unfortunately, the aggressive tumor returned. As it became larger and larger, Megan began having deficits. She had a difficult time walking, talking and remembering. But she never lost her sense of humor.

Megan always wanted a Jeep and her husband, Scott, made her dream come true before her tumor returned the second time. She loved that Jeep … many of us were lucky enough to ride around town with her in it.

We love and miss Megan so much. We joke that she still hangs around the OR … hiding our personal belongings and erasing our I-pod playlists among other things. But we’ll never forget her kindness, her laugh, her smile and her sense of humor. Oh, and her love for Kenny Chesney.

Megan was a scrub, circulating and charge nurse in the Operating Room at LMH from 2002-2009.


Michael Carnahan, October 15, 2011

Mike was a great OR scrub and circulating OR nurse at LMH for many years. Mike was never a morning person, but after 10 a.m., you could count on a smile, words of wisdom, and often a wise-crack or two throughout the day. He could answer any question you had, especially when it had to do with orthopaedics. Not only was Mike a great nurse at LMH, he had served in the Army many years prior to working for us. Many who served with him had such kind things to say about him.

Mike retired a few years back and never wanted to make a fuss about leaving. Several years into his retirement, he still came in and picked up our glass to be recycled, early in the morning, as not to disrupt the workflow. Many holidays we would receive cakes from Muncher’s and you always knew they were from Mike but he would never take credit for this thoughtfulness. What a kind, loving gentleman he was. He took care of his elderly mother as long as he was able, and though he never mentioned it, we all knew he had some sort of skin cancer. But that was Mike, he never wanted anyone making a fuss over him. We sure miss him and his expertise.

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Susan Harrison relays in memory of father-in-law who died from pancreatic cancer

Editor's Note: Area residents will be sharing stories about how cancer has touched their lives leading up to Relay For Life of Douglas County. Here is Susan's story:

BY SUSAN HARRISON

On Aug. 27, 2010, my father-in-law Ray, a very healthy man last week had a CT scan at the urging of his physician because he was having stomach problems and not eating well. The scan showed a growth at the head of the pancreas. Ray had pancreatic cancer! It was blocking his bile duct and he was quickly filling up with bile throughout his system. This was the start of a six-month journey I’d hoped to never see. I found out what it is like to have someone tell your loved one “you’re going to die!" Not if, but when!

Over the next six months Ray braved a fierce battle against his cancer. He never complained! I along with hospice and family helped to care for Ray at home. Most important to Ray was he wanted to stay home and die in his own bed with his family by his side. He braved tests and hospital stays and chemo and never complained. However, the day they told us that surgery would not help and the chemo was not working and it was time to look at hospice care “I cried." Imagine that, I cried and he just kept trying.

Ray wanted to live more than anything. Sometimes he would sit and talk about all the things he had to do in the spring. However for him spring came too late! I watched him try with every ounce of energy he had to complete the tasks that he thought needed to be done. I know that he wanted everything to be done to make things easier for his family, before he left this earth.

I watched this strong man, with hands so big and powerful lay in bed and waist away. Together with my family we took care of him and kept him safe and comfortable as best we could. We watched him talk to the angels many times during his last few weeks on earth, we calmed him when he was restless, and told him it was OK to take the angels hand and go to a better place at the end!

Ray died Feb. 27, 2011, at 1:23 a.m. in his bed at home; he lost his battle with cancer!

Not only did I lose him, but sadly, when I returned to work after Ray’s death, my friend and co-worker Debbie, who helped me deal with the pain of losing Ray and whose quiet demeanor and spiritual beliefs were so great was diagnosed with brain cancer and died just a few short months later. She, too, is now an angel!

On June 8, 2012, my husband and I along with many others will participate in Relay for Life to fight cancer. The enrollment form for Relay For Life asks who in your family or friends have had cancer and I did not have enough room on my form to fill out all the people I know who have fought or are fighting cancer.

Please help us wipe out cancer by either sponsoring or joining in on the Relay for Life walk. Please help, you do not want to have a story!

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Relay For Life team walks in memory of LMH nurse Debbie Toms

Editor's Note: Area residents will be sharing stories about how cancer has touched their lives leading up to Relay For Life of Douglas County. Here is April and Emily's story:

BY APRIL REYNOLDS AND EMILY MUELLER

With great difficulty we write, why we relay.

Last year on April 13, 2011, our friend, co-worker and mentor was diagnosed with Stage 3 glioblastoma. One of the most common and most aggressive of primary brain tumors.

Debbie was a registered nurse at Lawrence Memorial Hospital for nearly 18 years taking care of sick patients in the ICU, Cath lab and Cardiovascular Specialists of Lawrence. She was a nurse with lots of compassion and taught other people around her to care for patients in the same manner. Her patients always loved her and never forgot her. We, as a group, always want Debbie to be remembered and will continue to Relay in memory of Debbie Toms.

She was a role model in each and every way for us all. Not only did she have a positive attitude every day and throughout her illness, but many who knew her became closer in their faith because of her example. She never considered herself sick and handled her illness with faith and dignity.

Just a week before her diagnosis, she managed to influence the staff she worked with at Cardiovascular Specialists to participate in the "Brew to Brew" relay run, which starts in Kansas City and ends in Lawrence.

After her diagnosis, Debbie received 8 weeks of radiation and oral chemotherapy medication. Family, friends and co-workers came together to help care for her during this difficult time with meals, transportation, and anything else that she may have needed. I think just "being there" was enough for Debbie.

On August 12, 2011, Debbie lost her battle with glioblastoma and was finally at peace. There is not a day that goes by that Our Hearts do not Beat for Debbie — our friend, co-worker and mentor.

Debbie Toms

Debbie Toms

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Breast cancer survivor benefits from KU weight loss study funded by American Cancer Society

Jill Sittenauer, left, regional communications director for the American Cancer Society, visits with researcher Christie Befort, of Preventive Medicine & Public Health at Kansas University Medical Center, on May 3, 2012, in Befort's office. The American Cancer Society helped fund Befort's pilot weight loss study for rural breast cancer survivors, and Befort is showing Sittenhauer some of those promising results. Befort said women who are overweight and women who gain weight after diagnosis have an increased risk for breast cancer recurrence and worse prognosis compared to women with a normal body weight.

Jill Sittenauer, left, regional communications director for the American Cancer Society, visits with researcher Christie Befort, of Preventive Medicine & Public Health at Kansas University Medical Center, on May 3, 2012, in Befort's office. The American Cancer Society helped fund Befort's pilot weight loss study for rural breast cancer survivors, and Befort is showing Sittenhauer some of those promising results. Befort said women who are overweight and women who gain weight after diagnosis have an increased risk for breast cancer recurrence and worse prognosis compared to women with a normal body weight. by Kevin Anderson

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part series about Relay For Life of Douglas County, a benefit for the American Cancer Society. Today: Research.

Breast cancer survivor Pat Cashatt received a letter that intrigued her. It was from a Kansas University Medical Center researcher who wanted to know if she would be interested in participating in a study on weight loss.

“I had fought weight all of my life, so I filled it out and sent it in,” she said. “I didn’t think it work, but I thought it was worth a try.”

It was a six-month study that provided Cashatt with a weight loss regimen that included nutrition, exercise and support. She lost 45 pounds during the study which ended one year ago. Since then, she’s kept the weight off.

“I feel better than I’ve felt in years,” Cashatt, 72, a retired high school business teacher, said. “I’ve gotten off of all my medications. I have more energy and everything. So I’m really high on this program.”

•••

The weight loss study is the brainchild of KU researcher Christie Befort, 37. She’s researching how to cost-effectively help rural breast cancer survivors lose weight and then maintain it.

She said studies have shown that women who are overweight and women who gain weight after diagnosis have an increased risk for breast cancer recurrence and worse prognosis compared to women with a normal body weight. Additionally, the obesity rate is higher among rural women than urban.

Befort received a $30,000 grant from the American Cancer Society for her pilot study, and KU provided $5,000. She enrolled 35 women who lived near Hays, Pittsburg and Salina, including Cashatt, who lives in Beloit, about 65 miles north of Salina.

All of the women had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 10 years, had finished their treatments at least three months earlier and were considered overweight or obese with a Body Mass Index between 27 and 45.

During the study, they were placed on a 1,200-to-1,500 calorie plan that consisted of two shakes, two pre-packaged entrees and five one-cup servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

They started with 45 minutes of exercise per week and worked up to nearly four hours per week. They received support by participating in weekly conference calls with the other women, a dietitian and clinical psychologist. Each one lasted at least an hour. Participants kept track of their activities and weight on forms which were mailed in on a weekly basis.

“The women were amazing and very motivated,” Befort said. “We had really great results.”

Collectively, the group lost 14 percent of its starting weight.

The results of the study were so impressive that Befort recently landed a $3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for a five-year study to expand her research. She’s currently enrolling 208 women who fit the same criteria. The women will be enrolled for 18 months instead of just six months, and there will be two phases to the project instead of one.

Befort said the first phase will be similar to the pilot study where the women will receive the diet and exercise regimen for six months. Then they will be randomly assigned a maintenance program where they will either participate in biweekly conference calls or get biweekly newsletters.

“So both of those approaches are low-tech and low-cost. Our primary endpoint is looking at prevention of weight gain from six to 18 months,” Befort said.

Once she proves the most effective tools in helping breast cancer patients with weight management, the goal would be to make it widely available; perhaps insurance companies would help cover the costs. Ultimately, it could save lives.

Christie Befort, a researcher in Preventive Medicine & Public Health at Kansas University Medical Center, recently received a $3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for a five-year study to expand her research on weight loss among rural breast cancer survivors. Befort received the grant after conducting a pilot study with a $30,000 grant from the American Cancer Society.

Christie Befort, a researcher in Preventive Medicine & Public Health at Kansas University Medical Center, recently received a $3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for a five-year study to expand her research on weight loss among rural breast cancer survivors. Befort received the grant after conducting a pilot study with a $30,000 grant from the American Cancer Society. by Kevin Anderson

•••

Jill Sittenauer, regional communications director for the American Cancer Society, said the nonprofit organization looks for researchers like Befort who are in the early part of their careers and need some funding to get started.

“We look for the people who haven’t been proven yet, who have the unique, different ideas and then they do it, and they do it so well that they get big federal funding which is what everybody wants,” she said.

Forty-six researchers who have received American Cancer Society funding have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, the highest accolade of scientific achievement. The American Cancer Society, or ACS, also has helped provide funding for research that has led to major breakthroughs such as:

• mammography to screen for breast cancer.

• lumpectomy plus radiation for treatment of breast cancer.

• use of Tamoxifen to reduce risk of breast cancer.

• confirmed smoking as a cause of lung cancer.

• PSA test for prostate cancer screening.

Sittenauer said ACS is the second-leading funder of cancer research; it’s second only to the federal government. Last year, it invested $148 million in cancer research. There currently are ACS grants worth a total $2.5 million that have been given to KU researchers.

Sittenauer said the American Cancer Society is only able to fund 20 percent of the research applications that it receives. It then has a “Pay If” list of researchers. If they receive more donations than expected from events like Relay For Life, then whoever is at the top of the “Pay If” list will get funded. She said Tamoxifen, a drug that’s used for prevention and treatment of breast cancer, was once on that list.

She added that it’s not just researchers and scientists who decide which applications get funding — it’s citizens who have a passion for helping people with cancer.

•••

Cashatt, who has been cancer-free for five years after a double mastectomy, said she continues to apply what she learned through Befort’s pilot weight loss study.

“I’ve just stayed on the program basically. I never felt like it was a diet,” she said. “It was a change in eating habits.”

While 1,500 calories per day didn’t sound like much, she said she struggled sometimes to eat everything that she was required to. That’s because the fruits, vegetables and shakes were filling.

“They weren’t empty calories. They were good, healthy calories,” she said.

She learned how to cut down on fats and processed sugars, and how to cope with food triggers, among other things.

As for exercise, that wasn’t difficult for her because she is a walker; she just needed to pick up the pace. She wore a pedometer because participants were required to get at least 10,000 steps a day. She said that was tough for the women who worked at a desk all day and then had children to tend to at night.

Cashatt said she wasn't looking forward to the weekly phone conferences which were at 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Each one had a topic such as food labels, managing stress, and eating on the go.

Pat Cashatt

Pat Cashatt

"I'm not a group person and I was really dreading the phone conferences and I can't say that I really liked them, but the information that I got from the group and the leaders really helped."

She said the weekly forms that she had to turn in kept her accountable. On them she tracked her weight and whether she met her nutrition and exercise requirements. Once a month, they tracked everything they ate.

“I hated that,” she said, with laughter. “But it made me realize having a couple bites of this or a couple bites of that while fixing my husband’s meal can quickly add up.”

Since the study ended, Cashatt has received a few follow-up phone calls from researchers. There was a phone conference call in mid-May with all of the participants.

Even if her cancer returns, Cashatt’s glad she participated in the study. It proved to be life-changing.


KU RESEARCH STUDY

Kansas University researcher Christie Befort is seeking breast cancer survivors who live in rural areas to participate in an 18-month weight loss study.

To be eligible, you must be:

• female.

• overweight or obese with a Body Mass Index between 27 and 45.

• 75 years old or younger.

• postmenopausal.

• diagnosed with breast cancer within past 10 years.

• finished with treatments for least three months.

• able to walk briskly unassisted for at least 10 minutes.

To learn more, contact Heather Austin at haustin@kumc.edu or 913-588-3030.


AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY'S EXPENDITURES

Here's a breakdown on how the American Cancer Society spends its money:

• 32 percent — Research.

• 30 percent — Patient services and programs.

• 18 percent — Prevention and early detection programs.

• 17 percent — Fundraising.

• 3 percent — Management.


Luminarias lined the track during the 2011 Relay For Life of Douglas County at Free State High School. There were 2,950 at the event.

Luminarias lined the track during the 2011 Relay For Life of Douglas County at Free State High School. There were 2,950 at the event. by Kevin Anderson

JOIN RELAY

Relay For Life of Douglas County will be from 7 p.m. June 8 to 7 a.m. June 9 at Free State High School's track. The event is free and open to the public. Here's the lineup of activities:

• 5:30 p.m. June 8 — Children's activities area opens.

• 6:45 p.m. — Presentation of Colors.

• 7 p.m. — Opening ceremony and survivor's lap.

• 9:15 p.m. — Luminaria ceremony begins. Dr. Rod Barnes, a leukemia survivor, will be the keynote speaker.

• 5:30 a.m. — Closing ceremony begins.

To make a donation to Relay For Life of Douglas County, visit relayforlife.org/douglasks or make a donation at the event. This year's goal is to raise $175,000.


OTHER STORIES

Part 1: A look at the fundraising efforts in Douglas County and one woman's volunteer efforts in memory of her daughter-in-law.

Part 2: A look at the services and programs, including Hope Lodge, that the American Cancer Society funds for cancer patients and caregivers.

Hope Lodge is located in downtown in Kansas City, Mo., in the historic Quality Hill neighborhood. The American Cancer Society provides free housing to cancer patients traveling to Kansas City for treatment. Since opening in 2000, Hope Lodge has served 2,387 patients, including 41 from Douglas County.

Hope Lodge is located in downtown in Kansas City, Mo., in the historic Quality Hill neighborhood. The American Cancer Society provides free housing to cancer patients traveling to Kansas City for treatment. Since opening in 2000, Hope Lodge has served 2,387 patients, including 41 from Douglas County. by Kevin Anderson

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Cancer patients, caregivers describe Hope Lodge as saving grace

Deborah O'Dell, of Pittsburg, waits in the hallway for the elevator Thursday, May 3, 2012, at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge in Kansas City. She was biding time while her 27-year-old son James, who has Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, slept in their room. He was participating in a clinical trial at Kansas University.

Deborah O'Dell, of Pittsburg, waits in the hallway for the elevator Thursday, May 3, 2012, at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge in Kansas City. She was biding time while her 27-year-old son James, who has Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, slept in their room. He was participating in a clinical trial at Kansas University. by Kevin Anderson

Editor's Note: This is the second in a three-part series about Relay For Life of Douglas County, a benefit for the American Cancer Society. Today: Services and programs.

KANSAS CITY, MO. — Deborah O’Dell, of Pittsburg, was biding time while her 27-year-old son James slept in their room. He has Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and it’s terminal. He’s participating in a clinical trial at Kansas University Cancer Center.

Before the 2009 diagnosis, O’Dell said her son was attending college and working full-time. He weighed a healthy 180 pounds.

Since then, he has endured chemotherapy and radiation treatments and a stem cell transplant. He was in remission for about a year, then the cancer returned with a vengeance. James has lost his job and private health insurance and is on Medicaid.

O’Dell said the cancer had taken a toll on her son emotionally and physically. He now weighs about 135 pounds.

“He ate a fourth of an apple last night and it was like ‘woo hoo,’ a big thing,” she said.

In early May, they were staying in Hope Lodge, a three-story red brick building in downtown Kansas City that is available to cancer patients for free through the American Cancer Society.

O’Dell and her son had been there for four days. She expected they would be there for another five. The clinical trial includes an injection of drugs and a lot of lab work. Some days, they are at KU Cancer Center longer than others. She said her son wouldn’t be able to endure the 250 miles of daily round-trip travel between Pittsburg and Kansas City.

O’Dell, a licensed practical nurse, and her husband also have two daughters, ages 26 and 25. She said Hope Lodge allows her to spend money on her son’s needs instead of on a hotel room.

“I don’t know what I would do without this place,” O’Dell said. “It means the world. I’ve got the comforts of home. I can do laundry and I can cook for him. I’ve bought so much food that I think I’m going to have to give a bunch of it away because he won’t eat it.”

•••

Hope Lodge is just one of the dozens of services and programs that the American Cancer Society provides for free to cancer patients and their families.

Jill Sittenauer, regional communications director for the American Cancer Society, said the nonprofit spends 32 percent of its budget on research, 30 percent on patient services and 18 percent on programs. The majority of that money is raised through Relay For Life events.

“If patients call and need these things, then we do everything we can to help them,” Sittenauer said. “Cancer, unfortunately, is a very expensive disease to get and if your insurance isn’t able to pay for a lot of it or if you don’t have insurance, you have other needs besides your cancer treatments.”

She said one of the services that the American Cancer Society provides is a patient navigator who will not only help patients find cancer services, but also find resources to help with things like utility bills, rent and groceries. When patients call 1-800-227-2345, they will be assigned a patient navigator who will have access to national, regional and local services. The navigator will do the work for the patient.

“We strongly encourage people to use the number,” Sittenauer said.

Other services and programs include:

• Transportation to treatment facilities.

• Support groups.

• Classes to help patients deal with the cosmetic side effects that can occur during treatment.

• Wigs, turbans, breast prostheses and bras.

• Youth scholarships.

• Youth summer camp.

Last year, the American Cancer Society helped 300 cancer patients in Douglas County, and provided 1,035 services. Seven of those patients stayed in the Kansas City Hope Lodge for a total of 189 days.

Hope Lodge is located in downtown in Kansas City, Mo., in the historic Quality Hill neighborhood. The American Cancer Society provides free housing to cancer patients traveling to Kansas City for treatment. Since opening in 2000, Hope Lodge has served 2,387 patients, including 41 from Douglas County.

Hope Lodge is located in downtown in Kansas City, Mo., in the historic Quality Hill neighborhood. The American Cancer Society provides free housing to cancer patients traveling to Kansas City for treatment. Since opening in 2000, Hope Lodge has served 2,387 patients, including 41 from Douglas County. by Kevin Anderson

•••

Rural Lawrence resident Jeff Miller, 59, and his wife, Janice, checked out of Hope Lodge earlier this month after about a four-week stay. He had received his second autologous stem cell transplant at KU to help fight multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow.

Miller said he needed to be within 30 minutes of KU during the transplant.

“Thankfully, Hope Lodge was available, and it’s a tremendous facility,” he said.

There are 31 Hope Lodges throughout the country, including the one in Kansas City, Mo., at 1120 Pa. It can accommodate up to 100 people and has four floors. There are 45 private rooms that have your typical items: bed, chair, tables, small television, DVD player, closet, bathroom and small refrigerator. The building also has two kitchens, three visiting rooms, three laundry rooms, a fitness room and a courtyard. Patients receive a key and can come and go as they please. They can keep food in the pantries and use the kitchen; everything is done on an honor system. There’s also a movie room with theater seating, a popcorn machine and shelves of movies. Hope Lodge offers activities such as Bingo, crafts, movie nights and scavenger hunts.

It is staffed and locked 24 hours a day. The goal is to keep it a clean and safe environment.

Rachel Miller, Kansas City Hope Lodge operations specialist, said patients typically stay between six and eight weeks, but someone has stayed for as long as 18 months. She said people of any income level can access the lodge. The criteria is that they need to be cancer patients who live at least 40 miles away and who are undergoing treatment.

“We have people who have come from money, and we have people who have come from no money, and that’s the good thing about the American Cancer Society because we treat everyone the same no matter what type of background they come from,” she said.

It takes $1,000 a day to keep the doors open. The lodge has served 2,387 patients since opening in 2000, including 41 from Douglas County.

A map is displayed in the lobby at Hope Lodge in Kansas City, Mo. The pins indicate where the lodge's guests have traveled from.

A map is displayed in the lobby at Hope Lodge in Kansas City, Mo. The pins indicate where the lodge's guests have traveled from. by Kevin Anderson

•••

Jeff Miller not only stayed at Hope Lodge this year, but he also used it last year during his first transplant. That stay was about six weeks, and he and his wife became close friends with a handful of other couples. He said they would have dinner together nearly every day.

“We had conversations about our experiences and also shared different things about our families and so forth,” he said. “That was a good thing to be able to develop those relationships and have that camaraderie.”

Nancy Gosling described Hope Lodge as a godsend as she made oatmeal one morning while her husband, Phil, looked on.

“Everybody is so nice and kind. You form friendships with people who are going through what you are going through,” she said.

The couple are from Goff, which is about 50 miles north of Topeka and 118 miles from Kansas City. Phil, 70, was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments at KU for squamous cell carcinoma, a skin cancer that started in his sinuses one and a half years ago. He already had endured three surgeries and treatments, and now the cancer is back again. The Goslings anticipated their stay in Kansas City would be another 10 days. Then, his treatments would be less frequent and they planned to drive back and forth.

“This is just a blessing. It is unbelievable,” Nancy Gosling said. “We didn’t know anything about it until our doctor told us it was available.”

Tomorrow: A look at the research that Relay For Life helps fund.

Part 1: A look at the fundraising efforts in Douglas County and one woman's volunteer efforts in memory of her daughter-in-law.

After a morning of treatment, Phil and Nancy Gosling, of Goff, make breakfast Thursday, May 3, 2012, in one of the kitchens at Hope Lodge in Kansas City, Mo. They were staying at the lodge while Phil received treatments for squamous cell carcinoma, a skin cancer, at Kansas University Cancer Center.

After a morning of treatment, Phil and Nancy Gosling, of Goff, make breakfast Thursday, May 3, 2012, in one of the kitchens at Hope Lodge in Kansas City, Mo. They were staying at the lodge while Phil received treatments for squamous cell carcinoma, a skin cancer, at Kansas University Cancer Center. by Kevin Anderson

Hope Lodge is located in downtown in Kansas City, Mo., in the historic Quality Hill neighborhood. The American Cancer Society provides free housing to cancer patients traveling to Kansas City for treatment.

Hope Lodge is located in downtown in Kansas City, Mo., in the historic Quality Hill neighborhood. The American Cancer Society provides free housing to cancer patients traveling to Kansas City for treatment. by Kevin Anderson

Kansas City's Hope Lodge has a movie room with theater seating and a popcorn machine. There also are shelves of movies that its guests can watch. Rachel Miller, operations specialist, left, says they can always use DVD donations.

Kansas City's Hope Lodge has a movie room with theater seating and a popcorn machine. There also are shelves of movies that its guests can watch. Rachel Miller, operations specialist, left, says they can always use DVD donations. by Kevin Anderson

One of the family rooms at Hope Lodge in Kansas City, Mo.

One of the family rooms at Hope Lodge in Kansas City, Mo. by Kevin Anderson

There are several areas where guests can enjoy the outdoors at Hope Lodge in downtown Kansas City.

There are several areas where guests can enjoy the outdoors at Hope Lodge in downtown Kansas City. by Kevin Anderson

Nancy and Phil Gosling, of Goff, go through the grocery supplies that they are keeping in the kitchen area at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge on Thursday, May 3, 2012. Nancy Gosling described Hope Lodge as a godsend because it cut down on driving and costs and it allowed her to focus on Phil's cancer treatments. She said they also enjoy the company of others who are going through cancer.

Nancy and Phil Gosling, of Goff, go through the grocery supplies that they are keeping in the kitchen area at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge on Thursday, May 3, 2012. Nancy Gosling described Hope Lodge as a godsend because it cut down on driving and costs and it allowed her to focus on Phil's cancer treatments. She said they also enjoy the company of others who are going through cancer. by Kevin Anderson


SERVICES PROVIDED FOR DOUGLAS COUNTY PATIENTS

The American Cancer Society helped 300 cancer patients in Douglas County in 2011 and provided 1,035 services. Here’s how some of the patients were helped:

• 3 — received a total of seven breast prostheses.

• 26 — received wigs.

• 2 — attended Camp Hope near Claflin in western Kansas.

• 2 — received a free hotel stay near their treatment.

• 7 — stayed at Hope Lodge for a total of 189 days.

• 32 — attended “I Can Cope” education classes.

• 29 — attended “Look Good…Feel Better” classes to help deal with the cosmetic side effects that can occur during treatments.

• 14 — received a gas card for transportation to get to treatments.


HOW A $100 DONATION CAN HELP

Each participant in Relay For Life is asked to raise at least $100 for the American Cancer Society. Here’s what that $100 can provide:

• One night’s free lodging at Hope Lodge in Kansas City for a cancer patient and his or her caregiver.

• Provide two cancer patients with a $50 gas card so they can travel to their treatments.

• Provide two breast cancer patients with a volunteer visit through the Reach to Recovery program.

• Train 10 people to become volunteer drivers for the Road to Recover program so they can transport patients to and from treatments.

• Provide 10 cancer patients with personal health manager packets to help them organize information about appointments, treatments and medications.

• Provide cancer researchers with 115 Petri dishes allowing them to turn theories into new tests and treatments.


Sharon Wiggins, left, and Glenna Graham walk while holding the survivor chain at the start of Relay For Life of Douglas County in 2011 at Free State High School. This year's event is June 8-9.

Sharon Wiggins, left, and Glenna Graham walk while holding the survivor chain at the start of Relay For Life of Douglas County in 2011 at Free State High School. This year's event is June 8-9. by Kevin Anderson

JOIN RELAY

Relay For Life of Douglas County will be from 7 p.m. June 8 to 7 a.m. June 9 at Free State High School's track.

The event is free and open to the public. Here's the lineup of activities:

• 5:30 p.m. June 8 — Children's activities area opens.

• 6:45 p.m. — Presentation of Colors.

• 7 p.m. — Opening ceremony and survivor's lap.

• 9:15 p.m. — Luminaria ceremony begins. Dr. Rod Barnes, a leukemia survivor, will be the keynote speaker.

• 5:30 a.m. — Closing ceremony begins.

To make a donation to Relay For Life of Douglas County, visit relayforlife.org/douglasks or make a donation at the event. This year's goal is to raise $175,000.

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Kriss Miller-Kruzel participates in Relay For Life in hopes of finding cancer cure for herself, others

John Kruzel, Lawrence, pushed his wife Kriss Miller-Kruzel Friday during the 2011 Relay for Life at Free State High School.

John Kruzel, Lawrence, pushed his wife Kriss Miller-Kruzel Friday during the 2011 Relay for Life at Free State High School. by Kevin Anderson

Editor's Note: Area residents will be sharing stories about how cancer has touched their lives leading up to Relay For Life of Douglas County. Here is Kriss's story:

BY KRISS MILLER-KRUZEL

December 22, 2010…the day I was officially diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of the lung. In other words…I have cancer.

That day my entire life changed forever. That day my family’s lives changed forever. That day the lives of everyone who knew me changed. That day I began a new journey. I was completely blindsided…I never imagined I would be touched by cancer directly. I originally began participating in the Relay For Life to propel the efforts of finding a cure for cancer. I not only did this in support of those reaching and searching for a cure, but also in memory of those — like my Grandma — who were taken by this disease.

Many people do not realize the huge emotional and physical impact cancer has on those who are diagnosed or those close to them. Cancer is not something one ever wishes upon themselves or others. Cancer is not contagious from a smile, a handshake, a pat on the back, a hug. Cancer is not necessarily a “death sentence” today because of the many research advances and people who support those efforts. I am living proof of this.

When diagnosed, cancer was found in the lower left lobe of my lung and had metastasized to my bronchial tubes. In the following four months, although I was receiving active intravenous chemotherapy, the cancer metastasized to my liver which was not confirmed until six weeks later by follow-up CT scans. Initially diagnosed as a Stage 3A, my cancer had progressed quickly to a more critical state by June 2011.

Despite my prognosis, I participated in the Relay For Life that year, assisted in my mobility challenges using a wheelchair manned by family and friends. I continued to be very determined that I would not succumb to cancer and would do everything in my power to live. I was not going without a fight.

I had many things to still experience and live for: my tweenie daughter, my family, my many wonderful friends, the wonderful people I work for and with — not to mention, I had not achieved living beyond my 30s yet. It still is overwhelming. By God’s grace, I am here today due to the awesome support of family and the wonderful medical team I have as well as the discoveries in cancer research that are prolonging my life and keeping the cancer stable as I write this.

So, I now continue to Relay for many, many diverse reasons — continuing to pray for patients, medical teams, caregivers, researchers, and cures — hoping that someday we will be able to have a better understanding and grasp of this…and once in a while remembering that I need to include myself in those prayers, too.

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Lawrence resident organizes one of state’s largest Relay For Life events in memory of daughter-in-law who died of cancer

Shelle Arnold, left, and Barb Gorman, right, co-chairs of Relay For Life of Douglas County, visit before a Relay For Life team captain meeting at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Tuesday, May 22, 2012. Arnold became involved in Relay For Life after losing her daughter-in-law Becky Arnold to Ewing's sarcoma in 2008.

Shelle Arnold, left, and Barb Gorman, right, co-chairs of Relay For Life of Douglas County, visit before a Relay For Life team captain meeting at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Tuesday, May 22, 2012. Arnold became involved in Relay For Life after losing her daughter-in-law Becky Arnold to Ewing's sarcoma in 2008. by Mike Yoder

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series about Relay For Life of Douglas County, a benefit for the American Cancer Society. Today: Fundraising.

Six years ago, Lawrence resident Shelle Arnold attended her first Relay For Life event in Overland Park to support her daughter-in-law Becky Arnold, who was battling Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, at age 26.

Arnold cheered on Becky as she walked around a track with her son, Adam. Becky was wearing a survivor sash and sporting a bald head from chemotherapy treatments. She also watched as her son lit a candle in a luminary that was decorated in honor of Becky.

“It was so incredibly moving,” Arnold recalled.

The next year, she attended the event, but without Becky. She had died just weeks earlier on April 21, 2008, six days before her 28th birthday. The event now took on new meaning.

“As I was walking around the track and looking at the luminaries, I just told myself there is something that I’ve got to do. There’s got to be some way that I can help and some way that I can make a difference,” Arnold said.

She went to the information booth and asked if there was a Relay For Life event in Lawrence. She wanted to help.

•••

Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event. It raises money for cancer research and for services to help cancer patients and their families.

Each year, 4 million people take part in a Relay For Life event in more than 5,000 communities. It is estimated the events have raised $3 billion since the first one in 1986.

The fundraising idea was sparked by Dr. Gordon Klatt, a colorectal surgeon in Tacoma, Wash., who wanted to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of his patients. In 1985, he walked around a track for 24 hours, and people paid $25 to walk or run with him. He raised $27,000 and decided to form a team the next year. It grew from there.

This year, 75 Relay events are scheduled in Kansas, including one in Lawrence, which is called Relay For Life of Douglas County.

Since Lawrence’s first event in 1999, it has raised $1.7 million. Last year, about 800 people participated and raised $164,360, making it the second-largest Relay fundraiser in Kansas.

“The neat thing about Relay is that it’s not just a fundraiser,” said Jill Sittenauer, regional communications director for the American Cancer Society. “It’s a way to honor cancer survivors and remember cancer patients that we’ve lost. It’s not just a walk. It’s a way to provide support and connect a lot of survivors to each other.”

Relay events typically take place at a track lined with luminaria honoring a cancer survivor or memorializing someone who died of cancer. People walk around the track during the event, but survivors take the first lap. At dusk, the luminaria are lit during a special ceremony.

“Each community has the basic same rules, but they have different activities, campsites and structures,” Sittenauer said. “They can mold it into whatever they want.”

Relay events in Kansas take place between March and October, and the most popular weekend is the second weekend in June.

Cancer survivors kick off the start of the 2011 Relay For Life of Douglas County at Free State High School.

Cancer survivors kick off the start of the 2011 Relay For Life of Douglas County at Free State High School. by Kevin Anderson

•••

In the fall after Becky died, Arnold received a letter from the American Cancer Society asking if she wanted to serve on Lawrence’s Relay For Life planning committee. She accepted the offer and helped plan an event that she had never attended.

“It blew me away,” she said of her first Lawrence Relay. There were more participants, cancer survivors and luminaria. That first year, she just took it all in and helped where needed. Since then, she’s become more involved.

“I work and I relay. Those are my passions,” she said.

Last year, she was co-chair of the Lawrence event and she has continued in the role this year. That volunteer job entails overseeing a planning committee of about 30 people, 70 team captains and hundreds of participants. The planning begins in October with a to-do list that includes contacting corporate sponsors, food vendors, speakers and doing marketing. In January, the weekly meetings start with committee members and participants. Arnold said she is in touch with the other co-chair, Barb Gorman, on a daily basis.

“We don’t want to miss anything,” she said. The work mounts as the event draws closer. This year’s event begins at 7 p.m. June 8.

Angela Prewitt, community development manager with the American Cancer Society, serves as the liaison for the Lawrence Relay committee. She provides materials like brochures and posters and helps answer questions.

“I’m kind of like their cheerleader,” she said. “Without them, the event wouldn’t happen.”

Arnold, 52, juggles her Relay duties with being a wife, mother, grandmother and working a full-time job at Printing Solutions, but she doesn’t mind because it’s for a good cause and Becky is always on her mind.

Becky Arnold died of Ewing's sarcoma in 2008 at age 27.

Becky Arnold died of Ewing's sarcoma in 2008 at age 27. by Mike Yoder

The two were close and even worked together. Arnold often took Becky to her cancer treatments and provided support as her health declined.

At first, Arnold said Becky had trouble walking because of numbness in her legs and hips, then it started to move up her spine. One day, she couldn’t see out of one eye because it was pressing against one of her optic nerves. She had a pain pump installed to help get through her last weeks.

Arnold helped Becky plan her funeral and burial and was with her when she died.

When asked to describe Becky, Arnold took a deep breath, gathered her thoughts and said, “She was funny, giggly. She could have an ornery streak, but being in our family you kind of have to have one. She was compassionate. She was sweet. She loved Christmas.”

“She loved kids. She looked forward to being a mom,” Arnold said, wiping away a tear. “It’s hard. I’m still grieving.”

The hardship has been the driving force behind her ambition to make a difference when it comes to fighting cancer

“I believe that this is my calling. I think I found what I need to do,” she said, and added that she plans to be co-chair again next year. “I’m not done putting my stamp on Relay yet.”

Tomorrow: A look at the services and programs that Relay For Life helps fund.

http://wellcommons.com/photos/2010/may/25/192592/


TOP RELAY EVENTS

Here’s a list of the Relay For Life events that raised the most money in Kansas in 2011, according to the American Cancer Society:

• Shawnee County — $165,226

• Douglas County — $164,360

• Saline County — $130,148

• Barton County — $125,537

• Finney County — $116,205


LOCAL FUNDRAISING EFFORTS

Since 1999, the Relay For Life event in Lawrence has raised $1.7 million, according to the American Cancer Society. Here’s a breakdown:

1999 — $114,469

2000 — $130,153

2001 — $100,335

2002 — $98,835

2003 — $86,129

2004 —$113,281

2005 — $136,932

2006 — $147,961

2007 — $170,408

2008 — $184,050

2009 — $171,744

2010 — $170,038

2011 —$164,357

The Lawrence event changed its name to Relay For Life of Douglas County in 2007 and now incorporates surrounding communities.

Before then:

• Eudora hosted one from 2001 to 2005, raising a total $253,416.

• Baldwin City hosted one in 1997 and 1998 and then from 2001 to 2006, raising a total $250,325.

Kansas University has hosted an event since 2003, raising $392,486.

http://www2.ljworld.com/photos/2009/jun/13/172527/


JOIN RELAY

Relay For Life of Douglas County will be from 7 p.m. June 8 to 7 a.m. June 9 at Free State High School's track. The event is free and open to the public. Here's the lineup of activities:

• 5:30 p.m. June 8 — Children's activities area opens.

• 6:45 p.m. — Presentation of Colors.

• 7 p.m. — Opening ceremony and survivor's lap.

• 9:15 p.m. — Luminaria ceremony begins. Dr. Rod Barnes, a leukemia survivor, will be the keynote speaker.

• 5:30 a.m. — Closing ceremony begins.

To make a donation to Relay For Life of Douglas County, visit relayforlife.org/douglasks or make a donation at the event. This year's goal is to raise $175,000.

Jessie Lanzrath, left, and Baylee Parsons, from Topeka, light luminarias during the Relay For Life event. The luminarias honor people who have fought cancer.

Jessie Lanzrath, left, and Baylee Parsons, from Topeka, light luminarias during the Relay For Life event. The luminarias honor people who have fought cancer.

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As Nancy Smelser celebrates wedding anniversary, she remembers loved ones she’s lost since to cancer

Editor's Note: Area residents will be sharing stories about how cancer has touched their lives leading up to Relay For Life of Douglas County. Here is Nancy's story:

BY NANCY SMELSER

Today is my wedding anniversary. Thirty-eight years ago today, we celebrated one of life's happiest moments with our family and friends. As I look at the pictures in our wedding album, I see so many who are no longer here.

My mom is pictured there, but we just celebrated another Mother's Day without her. We lost her to leukemia in 1981. My sons never got to know their Grandma.

My "BFF" and Maid of Honor is in the pictures; we lost her to ovarian cancer in 2010. My bridesmaid is gone, too, just last February. We lost our Grandma to breast cancer in 1990, and our best man's wife is battling that now.

My brother Dan is in the pictures and he is a cancer survivor, beating lung cancer every day.

An aunt and several cousins are in the pictures; sadly, some are no longer with us, but others are still survivors.

So many precious lives taken away far too soon. Not a day goes by that I don't think of them, but especially on special days like this. We cherish all the special moments they were a part of, and want to celebrate every single day we still have with our loved ones.

ACS helps us celebrate birthdays for everyone. Come Relay with us and celebrate your own cherished moments.

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Cathy Belcher participates in Relay For Life to honor, remember relatives who have fought cancer

The focal point of Relay For Life of Douglas County, which benefits the American Cancer Society. Money raised goes toward cancer research and programs for cancer patients.

The focal point of Relay For Life of Douglas County, which benefits the American Cancer Society. Money raised goes toward cancer research and programs for cancer patients.

Editor's Note: Area residents will be sharing stories about how cancer has touched their lives leading up to Relay For Life of Douglas County. Here is Cathy's story:

BY CATHY BELCHER

I first participated in Relay For Life as a member of my daughter's work team. I walked in memory of my mother who passed away at the age of 73 from colon cancer on Aug. 23, 2003. She only lived two months after she was diagnosed, as it was too far along to do anything.

The next year, because I have a number of relatives that have had cancer, I decided to see if any of the other cousins would be interested in forming our own team. I did not get any response from my mother's side of the family, but I did from my father's side of the family. Thus "Team Paulsen" was born and this is our third year.

The list of family members on my mother's side that have suffered from cancer:

• Mary K. Paulsen (mom) — died of Colon Cancer at the age of 73.

• Uncle Charlie Bradford — died of Lung Cancer at the age of 72.

• Uncle Bill Bradford — died of Lung Cancer at the age of 60.

• Uncle Bud Bradford — died of Lung Cancer at the age of 43.

• Cousin Mike Hawkins — died of Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 18.

• Second Cousin Tim Lark — has been in remission for 17 years from Leukemia.

The list of family members on my father's side that have suffered from cancer:

• Bob Paulsen (dad) — has been in remission for 16 years from Colon Cancer.

• Uncle Steve Paulsen — died of Lymphoma & Prostate Cancer at the age of 72.

• Aunt Mary Louise Timmons — died at the age of 81 (this year) after 14 years of fighting Breast, Colon and Ovarian Cancers.

• Aunt Rita Collard — has been in remission for 11 years from Lymphoma Cancer.

• Uncle-In-Law Don Timmons -— has been in remission for 5 years from Kidney Cancer.

• Cousin Tim Paulsen — died of Brain Cancer at the age of 43.

• Cousin Dan Paulsen — has been in remission for 16 years from Melanoma Cancer.

• Second Cousin-In-Law Luana Paulsen — has been in remission for 11 years from Uterine Cancer.

• Second Cousin Chris Paulsen — has been in remission for 17 years from Testicular Cancer.

In my immediate family, the ones that have suffered from cancer:

• Son-in-law Tad Lemon — has been fighting Hodgkins Lymphoma since 2002.

• Daughter-In-Law Dr. Wendy Belcher — has been in remission for 3 years from Hodgkins Lymphoma.

We had a member on "Team Paulsen" the first year, Jacque Lebow, a friend of my daughter's from college, that has been in remisssion for 6 years from Thyroid Cancer. Also, my daughter-in-law's sister, Becky Hurley, developed Hodgkins Lymphoma last year and is still battling it.

So as you can see, I have a large family that cancer has hit. It is for all of them, as well as friends, that I do this relay. We have lost many, but we also still have many.

Hopefully some day research will have all the answers and we will not loose any more to Cancer.

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Steve Birchfield shares journey with rare blood cancer

Editor's Note: Area residents will be sharing stories about how cancer has touched their lives leading up to Relay For Life of Douglas County. Here is Steve's story.

BY STEVE BIRCHFIELD

The hard mass just below my left rib cage didn’t change for a couple of weeks before I mentioned it to my wife, Jodi. After feeling it with her hand she said that she was going to make an appointment with my doctor - because that’s what wives do for their husbands who tend to work through pain and the common ailments of being 48- years old.

The look on the doctor’s face when she felt the lump gave me pause. This might actually be something. Then the questions: “Do you get night sweats?” Yes, but I’m too cheap to turn on the A/C in the month of May. “Do you tire easily?” I’m always tired, but isn’t everyone? The doctor determined that a CAT scan was in order to identify the lump. Today.

Ok, could be nothing.....

Jodi met me at the hospital and I proceeded to find out that I have a really large spleen. Could be anything..... They want me to go back to the doctor for some blood work. Then more waiting.

The next morning I go to work and get a call about 2 hours into my day from another doctor at the practice. “We got your blood work back and your white blood cell count is one of the highest I’ve ever seen. I need you to go to the emergency room at the hospital right now. They will take more blood and they might admit you.” Huh? I asked what she thought it might be and she said, “Leukemia.”

Jodi’s dad had leukemia in the early 80’s. I’d forgotten this as I was having my mild panic attack driving along I-70 from Topeka, where I work, back to Lawrence that morning. My wife’s silence and concern on the other end of the phone as I was driving was partly due to her dad’s battle with leukemia many years ago. I’ll admit that I had very little knowledge about leukemia that morning. I didn’t even know that it was a type of cancer. I just knew that it was not a good thing and Jodi’s reaction — while loving and well-meaning — reinforced that feeling.

I reported to the emergency room and expected a team of doctors to run a battery of tests. The receptionist just sent me to the lab. More blood work. I asked the tech if they needed anything else and he said, “no.” So I went home. And waited.

Later that afternoon, I hadn’t heard back so I called my doctor. Surprised to hear that I was home, she made some phone calls. She called me back and indicated that my care would now be moved to an oncologist. Ok, again, more ignorance on my part: what is an “oncologist?” But I didn’t ask. Just waited for another phone call.

That call came and a very caring sounding women said that she would like to “come to our house or meet for coffee or whatever is the most comfortable” to discuss my health. Today. But “it’s not like I’m going to give you some horrible news.”

Later, I would meet one of the most caring doctors I’ve ever met. Jodi, however, already knew her. They graduated from the same high school together. That certainly softened the blow of the diagnosis of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), a very rare but manageable form of blood cancer. She gave me a couple of web sites to get more information - “just don’t Google it because the information could be outdated.” She indicated that the special blood tests would confirm the diagnosis, but she and the pathologist were 99 percent certain.”

That night, May 21st, 2011, we went to a family reunion and I was the recipient of a lot of great hugs from friends and family. I re-entered reality briefly as I was in communication with the grocery store I manage in Topeka due to tornadoes hovering close to the store. I also had my last beer that day. The next day, Joplin, Missouri was devastated.

I began taking an oral form of chemotherapy called Gleevec a few weeks later. I’ll take it for the rest of my life or until a cure for my disease is found. The drug was developed by Dr. Brian Druker and approved by the FDA in 2001. Before this drug was introduced the life expectancy of someone with CML was 5 years. Dr. Druker has said that he fully expects someone with CML to live a normal life span and patients who started Gleevec in the late 90s are still alive. A stem cell transplant is an option but has a very low survival rate. Gleevec targets only the leukemic cells where traditional chemotherapy can attack all cells. Since the introduction of Gleevec, three other drugs have been introduced as well.

My white blood cell counts dropped from nearly 300,000 down to the normal 5,000 to 10,000 within a few months. I take a pill every day and get periodic blood testing. This targeted type of therapy for cancer is fairly new and one of the reasons support is needed for fundraising events like Relay for Life and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night walks to keep the research well-funded.

The diagnosis certainly knocked me down. It took quite a while for a sense of normalcy to return to my life. But my new normal includes a greater respect for life, a better appreciation for my friends and family, a more focus approached to knowing what is really important every day, and an amazing orange pill.

Steve Birchfield was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, a rare blood cancer, last year. He will be participating in the survivor lap of Relay For Life of Douglas County on June 8.

Steve Birchfield was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, a rare blood cancer, last year. He will be participating in the survivor lap of Relay For Life of Douglas County on June 8.

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Recent KU graduate participates in Relay For Life for ‘other’ mom, stepfather who lost battles with cancer

Editor's Note: Area residents will be sharing stories about how cancer has touched their lives leading up to Relay For Life of Douglas County. Here is Jacque's story.

BY JACQUE MOCNIK-BOYD

I was 13 years old when I had my first experience with cancer. My mom’s best friend, Beth Williams, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35. Beth was my “other” mom. Her two sons were raised with my brother and myself, as siblings and her and my mom were inseparable.

When she found out she had cancer, she moved back in with her parents and spent pretty much every weekend at our house, sleeping in my bedroom with me. She was the person I confided in, all my silly teenage feelings and thoughts. We stood by her side as she endured through a double mastectomy, then they placed a shunt directly to her heart to give her chemo through. She lost all her hair and wore turbans.

Through all this, my stepfather, Ralph, worked to keep Beth’s spirits up, in his own way. Ralph was always trying to make people laugh, especially at themselves and Beth needed to laugh. The chemo was terrible on her, and it was tough to watch her go through it, especially knowing there was little we could do other than just be with her, by her side.

Radiation came next, and the image of her skin, blackened and burned, on both her front and back of her upper left side will haunt me forever. Beth made it through all the treatments and we thought she was a survivor.

Every woman in Beth’s family, her mother, her sisters, all have had breast cancer. All have made it through and we thought that this was going to hold true for Beth.

In March of 1995, my senior year of high school, Beth told me news that I did not want to hear. The cancer was back, and this time it was in her bones, her spine, and other places in her body. From the revelation of her cancer coming out of remission, to her passing was six months. Her body simply could not handle another battle against cancer, and her mind could not either. I went to see her in hospital and she told me that she just wanted to die. There was nothing we could do for her, but to pray for a quick release from all the pain that she was suffering.

When my mom formed a Relay for Life team in 2010, I quickly joined. I wanted to fight for Beth, so others would not have to suffer like she did. It became even more important, because her oldest son had had a child, a little girl, and we knew that it could be highly likely that she could have cancer in the future, like all the other women in her father’s family. Ralph was by our side the whole time. He helped us with all our fundraisers, making us laugh when we were tired and cranky because we were doing something every weekend. He helped plan and organize our major event, the Cancer Busters Ride for Cure Motorcycle Run. He walked with us Relay night, stayed all night with us and encouraged us to keep going, even when we were all ready to fall over. What we did not know at the time was that Ralph was fighting a battle of his own.

Ralph hadn’t been feeling very well for several months. He was a smoker and doctor told him it was because he smoked. In October, when he had been sick for around 9 months, he went back and they did a chest X-ray. From there things moved pretty quickly and we were told on November 2 that he had stage four lung cancer. Ralph had non-small cell lung cancer. My mom and I were sitting with him when they told him that stage four was the last stage and that most people only live 9-15 months with his diagnosis. Ralph lived 18 more days.

From diagnosis, we had a short journey; two stays in the hospital, and then home to hospice because he wanted to go home and we honored his wish. We were able to say our good-byes and tell him that it was OK to let go, that he didn’t have to hold on anymore for us. One of the last things he ever said to me was to ask me to promise that I would finish college. I promised, and he made the rest of my family promise that no matter what I would finish.

Last weekend on Mother’s Day, I graduated from KU with two bachelor’s degrees. It was bittersweet, I was happy that I had finished what I had started, but wanted nothing more than Ralph to be there to celebrate with me. I know he was walking down the hill with me in spirit and I know he is proud of me for not quitting.

I continue to relay because I want for us to find a cure for cancer. I want to fight, so that children do not have to bury their parents too soon, killed by this terrible disease. I want to fight so that parents do not have bury children that are taken away too soon by cancer, but mostly I relay so that one day no one will have to suffer through cancer.

Jacque Mocnik-Boyd graduated from Kansas University on May 13, 2012, with two bachelor's degrees. She wished her "other mom" and stepfather, who both died of cancer, could have been there to see her accomplishment. She participates in Relay For Life to remember them.

Jacque Mocnik-Boyd graduated from Kansas University on May 13, 2012, with two bachelor's degrees. She wished her "other mom" and stepfather, who both died of cancer, could have been there to see her accomplishment. She participates in Relay For Life to remember them.

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Debbie Ross shares experience of battling skin cancer at age 21

Editor's Note: Area residents will be sharing stories about how cancer has touched their lives leading up to Relay For Life of Douglas County. Here is Debbie's story:

BY DEBBIE ROSS

I relay in celebration of 10 more birthdays. I relay for my two beautiful boys. I relay for 10 more years with my eternal sweetheart. I relay out of gratitude. I relay for the losses of my best friend/grandmother Mimi who raised me to breast cancer, for my lovely stepmother and her battle with ovarian cancer, and my wonderful uncle who fought esophageal cancer... These are some of whom I will be thinking of and holding near and dear to my heart the night of the relay.

I had my own bout with melanoma in the fall of 2002. Just a year and a half after I got married. I was only 21 years old. I was a "lucky" one, a blessed one, a fortunate one for sure.

I had been laid off at my job with a travel agency due to the downfall of the travel industry after 9/11. For two months, I filled out every application in town. Even jobs I was highly underqualified for, I would go, apply, swallow my pride, and never hear back. My husband and I were desperate and praying for a job for me.

A friend, who worked at a dermatology office and was leaving, had given thought to me and wondered if I'd like to give it a shot. I went in. It went well. My interview was perfect. I got the offer that day.

My first day was a Friday. They ran me through the office like a patient, so I would understand their office flow. They spotted it immediately. I had a large, misshapen mole on the nape of my neck. It was described as asymmetrical, crazy shaped and without borders, black and other colors were present, the diameter was the size of a half dollar. All the A,B,C,D's were checks against me. The docs were called in to look at it. They decided to take a biopsy.

The next Monday at 5 p.m., I was called into the doc's office, alone. He preceded to tell me my mole was malignant and dangerously close to blood vessels. I needed surgery immediately. He had scheduled my surgery for November 11, less than a week later.

Unfortunately, I knew what this meant. It was very serious. I had seen my dear grandmother go through it, but she'd survived it. I had seen my uncle go through it and had just recently lost a very tough battle. I felt his presence very close the whole frightening time I stared at the doc's face, but letting his information pass by my ears.

I knew that my grandma was picking me up from work that day, I had to tell my husband before her, or she was going to just lose it. With any courage I had, I stifled it inside. The whole car ride home, it was one of the hardest things I'd ever done. I'd never hid anything from her, but I couldn't let her hear or bear the explosion that was brewing inside, it would've killed her.

When my husband got home, we sat and wept together. We prayed together. We had a righteous desire and felt courage and hope and faith. We had matured 50 years overnight from young and naive newlyweds.

I went in for my sentinel node biopsy, where two doctors in full radiation suits prepared me for a scan. In a very discouraging, painful, vulnerable situation during testing, I had felt very, very alone. I needed comfort. I prayed for that comfort and strength. A tune began to play in my mind, I sang it over and over. It brought me peace. I knew I'd heard it at church, and knew it was a hymn, but knew only a few lines of the chorus. Yet, there I was receiving great comfort and again my faith and courage became restored.

We took the results of the sentinel node scan and went to surgery. As my husband had to leave me to go into the OR, his depature from the room physically felt like he'd been torn from me. I was feeling about 12 years old again.

I had never got to meet my husband's grandmother, "Toby", but he's always loved her so dearly. They had lost her to leukemia. We had planned, if there were a daughter in our future that could get sent to us, Toby Jane would be her name. Very scared and alone, yet as they began an IV and I got placed on my bed, the name Toby Jane was so impressed, repeatedly, upon my mind, I couldn't help but think someone else might be giving me some encouragement. I felt invigorated and knew I would go on and have children. As I was going under I remember telling the nurses and doctors over and over again, "I'm going to have children. Do a good job, I'm going to have children." (What a terrible patient! I would've been so distracted.)

When I woke up, I felt great. Even without having the know-how to move or open my eyes I began telling the nurses my story, from losing my job to my current status of faithful vegetable. :) They kept telling me, "Someone must have a plan for you." "The good Lord is lookin' out for this girl." I knew it, and it felt great. Nauseous, and paralyzed from the anesthesia, but amazing. They removed some of the lymph nodes, for testing, from the area where the tumor would have drained- the entire tumor and then some, to be sure they had removed any further re-growth. A 3-inch by 3-inch area from the nape of my neck and left a fantastic 'big dipper' as we like to call it.

Two weeks, two gruesome, agonizing weeks later, we were called back in to my surgeon's office for the results. The big question was how much further had it gone. Depth creates problems. Depth meant metastasis. Metastasis meant chemo, radiation, and with melanoma, chances after it becomes metastatic were not going to be in our favor.

The lymph nodes told all. They were clean. They had never, ever seen someone have a melanoma of that size grow so laterally and not have equal depth. The surgeon then told me they follow a procedural path. Certain factors lead them this way or that. He then said, "Had these same circumstances been on a male... we wouldn't have operated. They don't turn out that great. You are a very lucky girl. I expect you to lead a normal life." I was literally a comet that couldn't be contained. I bolted off the table and hugged that surgeon. That cold, distant, collected surgeon. "Thank you! Thank you!! I am so happy. Thank you!" I still get a chuckle out of that one. My husband and I couldn't wait to tell our family. We started calling. I called Mimi, he called his Mom.

The whole family went to dinner that night, we walked into Jose Peppers and my heart beamed. Heartfelt hugs and tears. My food at little Jose Peppers in Olathe couldn't have been prepared by any greater of chef in the world. The food tasted divine.

I have been blessed by my caregiver, my husband, for 11 years, he is my rock. I could NOT have done all this or faced all this without him. I hope you enjoy the video below. He was forefront on my mind as I watched. I share this not in hopes of praise, for the praise certainly does not belong to me, but just to share.

My story's details have been personally shared only with certain close friends or in church situations... But this is why I relay. I am celebrating my 10- year mark by creating a Black and Pink team. Black for Melanoma, and Pink for Breast cancer, because they are so personally near and dear to my heart.

Thanks for reading this far into it. Here's a link to my team page.

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Betty Parks encourages residents to join Relay For Life experience

Editor's Note: Area residents will be sharing stories about how cancer has touched their lives leading up to Relay For Life of Douglas County. Here is Betty's story:

BY BETTY PARKS

My reason to relay is not much different from many others. I relay for the personal friends and family members who have lost their battle with cancer — some many years ago and one just within the past week. I have great respect and wish to honor those survivors who are dealing with their fight so bravely each and every day and want to find a cure for them. I choose to walk for each of them.

No matter how we choose to participate — as a team member, committee member or observer, the rewards are many. We come together with a common bond to earn funds for the American Cancer Society. Our relay efforts help fund research to find a cure, as well as local programs and services to help make life a little better for those who continue to fight.

When the thousands of luminaria glow around the track as darkness falls on June 8th, I will be there, again in awe at the sight. As our teams walk the miles of laps around the track throughout the long hours of the night, I will be there, reminded that we do this because cancer never sleeps.

I hope many who have never attended a Relay For Life will join in the experience, as we work to earn funds for ACS with this year's theme in mind, "Step by Step, Each Closer to a Cure."

The focal point of Relay For Life of Douglas County, which benefits the American Cancer Society. Money raised goes toward cancer research and programs for cancer patients.

The focal point of Relay For Life of Douglas County, which benefits the American Cancer Society. Money raised goes toward cancer research and programs for cancer patients.

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Karly Schultz relays for inspiring teacher who lost battle to cancer

Editor's Note: Area residents will be sharing stories about how cancer has touched their lives leading up to Relay For Life of Douglas County. Here is Karly's story.

BY KARLY SCHULTZ

I remember walking into her classroom on the very first day of my sophomore year of High School. I could feel the warmth in the room and her contagious smile made you feel at ease. On that day I walked into her classroom, Lisa Waldhauer, became more than my teacher. She was my cheerleader, friend, confident, and a second mother.

Lisa and her husband never had kids, so the moment I walked into their lives, I became their "little girl." Even when I ran off to college, Lisa continued to be a constant in my life, always reminding me that I could do anything I wanted.

I was back from college for couple days, and one of my routine stops was to the Waldhauer's house. When I walked in their house, the warmth was not there, and Lisa's smile was nonexistent. She couldn't say a word to me, but instead her husband spoke the dreaded words, "Lisa has cancer." I remember not feeling anything; I did not feel hope. I did not feel sad. I did not feel upset. I just did not feel. Lisa simply said, "We are going to be okay." And I believed her.

On July 10, 2006, Lisa was okay again. She no longer had to keep fighting and she no longer had to look cancer in the face. During her fight, she courageously faced each day with a beautiful smile and an insanely huge spirit. Even as the world continues on, and I get older, she continues to be a beautiful reminder that cancer will NEVER get the last word. A hard fought battle and a life well lived will. That is why I Relay.

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Brandy Groff participates in Relay For Life to remember her grandma, honor her grandpa

Editor's Note: Area residents will be sharing stories about how cancer has touched their lives leading up to Relay For Life of Douglas County. Here is our first story.

BY BRANDY GROFF

Us grandchildren called her Gran. She was inspiring in all the ways that grandmothers often are. But to me, she seemed even more inspiring.

She was a young 60, but I knew I wanted to be like her when I grew up. She wore chunky jewelry, read hundreds of books — marking and highlighting every page she found interesting, bought items off of QVC on a whim, kept her water glasses in the freezer, and boiled water on the stove in the winter. She had the answers to everything: baking, gardening, grammar, traveling, taxes, men, and everything in between. She was spunky and unique and had advice that was real and honest in a way that no one else was giving me at that age. She had no limits to her curiosity or confidence in doing anything she wanted to do. She was creative and smart, and I always wanted to do it like Gran, except maybe the five marriages if I could help it.

The first moment that cancer was introduced into my life was six years ago when my parents told my sister and I that Gran was diagnosed with breast cancer. We were standing in the kitchen when they told us and my mother was bawling in my father's arms, a sight I'd never seen before and never wanted to see again — but wouldn't be so lucky.

For the first couple of years, there became a normal routine for all of us and although some things were different, it didn't seem as if cancer was really interrupting my grandmother's life in the way that I expected it would.

There were big moments of course, like shaving her hair off when she started chemotherapy. My mom's hand was shaky and her eyes were filled with tears as she started to carefully remove all of Gran's soft brown locks. Gran just joked and smiled with confidence — hiding her own sadness and easing away my mother's; this was a strength that she would carry with her until the very end and probably the main reason why the first couple years seemed so normal.

I was a junior in high school when things started getting really bad. A lot of my time outside of school was spent at my grandmother's house with my mom. My mom was her sole caretaker: going with her to treatments, getting her anything and everything she needed, and taking on all of her responsibilities. My mother's roles at that time umbrella-ed over everyone I knew. Something she probably doesn't realize meant the world to all of us.

There is an absolute ugliness to cancer that people don't ever want to talk about, that I had never known about until I stood firm in my position of wanting to be by my grandmother's side no matter what. There were school nights that I spent on the cold hospital floor, waking constantly to my grandmother's moans of pain, and assisting her in anything she needed. Never before had I seen her so broken and vulnerable, so helpless and hurt. My mother and I were on either side of her as she vomited pure blood into a waste basket. It never got better.

There were more things I saw that I know she never would have wanted anyone to see, things that were embarrassing, scary, and painful. I watched the pain and sadness in my mother's eyes as she helped her in ways that I was often not strong enough to. My mom really was staying strong for the rest of us. I only wish I could've been stronger for her too.

There is a strange process to death when it goes so slow in the end. I couldn't believe after her having cancer for four years, that she was really going to leave us now. She hadn't even seen me graduate, go to college, or get married. I guess I always had hope that she could've held on until I did those things. But I just had to accept that would never happen. The end was especially hard when I watched her fade in and out of the person I knew her to be, and then when I watched her leave for good.

There are moments when I wish that I could just call Gran up and see what she thinks about an idea or maybe ask how she handled a particular situation when she was my age. I want to talk to her about the things I've seen in the world and I want her encouragement to keep going. I know my mom often feels the same way. It was especially hard the first year that she wasn't with us. More than once my mother would say, "Oh, I almost just said we could call Gran to ask her, but I guess we can't."

Gran was why I started relaying, but as of recently I've also had another reason and that was for my grandpa, Tom. He was diagnosed with lung cancer. He told me he wasn't afraid of the cancer, but of the humiliation that often comes along with it. He is a prideful veteran and someone who doesn't easily show weakness or vulnerability.

This news was particularly hard hitting for many reasons, my grandma and grandpa on my dad's side seem almost invincible. They are the epitome of grandparents. With five children, 13 grandchildren, and 12 great grandchildren — they are everyone's anchor. My grandpa is a huge jokester, always trying to get one up on anyone he can. He is a sweet man though and always concerns himself with my well being. He has opinions on every matter and is always in for a good conversation. I'm his youngest grandchild and even though I've gone against the grain in many ways, he always supports and loves me — even if he has to show it by giving me whiskey.

Of course nothing seemed too different in the beginning of his cancer either. We just found out that it is there, but didn't really see any of its effects. Luckily, the cancer was only in one area of his lung and could be removed, so after many doctor visits, an appointment for surgery was made.

A mini-family reunion commenced as grandpa went into surgery. The goodbye beforehand was slightly unnerving and my sister and I almost missed it. But, true to fashion, he came strong and the surgery was a success. Only last week did we find out that the cancer had been completely removed and none else had been detected! Good thing too, because I'm not ready to get married yet, and he better be around for that.

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Join hundreds of Douglas County residents in fight against cancer by participating in Relay For Life

Cancer survivors kick off the start of the 2011 Relay For Life of Douglas County at Free State High School.

Cancer survivors kick off the start of the 2011 Relay For Life of Douglas County at Free State High School. by Kevin Anderson

Hundreds of community members are gearing up for Relay For Life of Douglas County, which is June 8-9.

If you haven’t been, you are missing out.

Relay For Life is an annual activity-filled, overnight event that raises awareness about cancer and money for the American Cancer Society.

This year’s event will be from 7 p.m. June 8 to 7 a.m. June 9 at Free State High School’s track. The track will be lined with luminaries that honor cancer survivors, remember loved ones lost and to support those fighting the disease.

The relay involves teams of participants, usually eight to 15, who raise money between the kickoff party in January and the event. At the event, team members take turns walking around the track and camp out while activities go on throughout the night.

Last year, 66 teams participated and raised $164,357.

One of the highlights at the Relay For Life event is when cancer survivors take the first lap on the track at 7 p.m. Last year, about 250 survivors participated.

The event is free and open to the public.

Here’s the lineup of activities:

• 5:30 p.m. June 8 — Children’s activities area opens.

• 7 p.m. — Opening ceremony and survivor’s lap.

• 9:15 p.m. — Luminiaria ceremony begins.

• 5:30 a.m. — Closing ceremony begins.

Deborah Bredehoft, left, and Tim Bredehoft, both of Lawrence, look at luminarias during Relay For Life of Douglas County held Friday, June 11, 2010, at the Free State High School track. They were walking in honor of Tim's mother.

Deborah Bredehoft, left, and Tim Bredehoft, both of Lawrence, look at luminarias during Relay For Life of Douglas County held Friday, June 11, 2010, at the Free State High School track. They were walking in honor of Tim's mother. by unknown

To make a donation to Relay For Life of Douglas County, visit relayforlife.org/douglasks or make a donation at the event. This year’s goal is to raise $175,000.

Throughout the month, area residents will be sharing their stories about how cancer has touched their lives on WellCommons under the Relay For Life of Douglas County’s group page. We encourage you to share story to help raise awareness about how cancer affects so many lives.

Also, WellCommons will be donating $1 for each new member who joins the group.

Later this month, there will be a three-part series on WellCommons about the beneficiaries of Relay For Life. Since 1999, the Lawrence event has raised $1.6 million.

The message at Relay For Life changed in the early morning hours from "We Relay For Hope" to "We Relay For A Cure."

The message at Relay For Life changed in the early morning hours from "We Relay For Hope" to "We Relay For A Cure."

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Relay Chose Me

Tina Yates, of Lawrence, is pictured with her sisters and mother at a Relay For Life of Douglas County event. From left are: Cindi Zimmerman, Linda McCormack, a breast cancer survivor, Denise Cummings, Tina Yates, and their mother, Virginia Lipke, a breast cancer survivor.

Tina Yates, of Lawrence, is pictured with her sisters and mother at a Relay For Life of Douglas County event. From left are: Cindi Zimmerman, Linda McCormack, a breast cancer survivor, Denise Cummings, Tina Yates, and their mother, Virginia Lipke, a breast cancer survivor.

Even though it was a little over 15 years ago, I vividly remember attending my first Relay like it was just yesterday. It was the Pottowatomie County Relay For Life in Wamego, Kansas. A friend of mine, Ann Ballenger, asked me to attend the event because it was just starting up in our community and they were looking for "warm bodies" to help draw attention to the cause. She assured me that I didn't even need to collect donations because she'd do it for me. She just wanted me to come out and experience the event first hand. Little did I know, but I was about to become a Relay groupie!

I took one of my daughters, Laura, to the stadium where the event was held and we walked the track, enjoying some quality mother-daughter time. As the evening wore on we drank hot chocolate and rubbed our hands together to say warm. When it was time for the luminary ceremony we sat huddled together on the cold metal bleachers listening as the survivor names were read. I started to feel tears gather in my eyes and was overcome with emotion. Laura was fairly young and with the innocence of a child she asked me why I was crying. You see, my father-in-law, Jim, had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer and our family was still reeling from the news. Expressing my sadness to her was difficult but necessary. After our conversation we reentered the track and began to walk with a renewed energy because now we were both walking for Jim and feeling hopeful that we could make a difference.

This was my first, and only, Relay to watch from the sidelines. That night I found a cause larger than life that I could relate to and I've served on a Relay committee all but one year since then. Not only do I serve on the committee, I also captain a team and solicit donations. Everyone who knows me knows that I have a passion for Relay and that I will continue to Relay until a cure is found. I don't feel that I chose Relay but rather Relay chose me. It wasn't necessarily a conscience decision that I made, it was more like a calling that I had no control over.

I am sad to say that my father-in-law lost his battle with cancer a little over two years after his initial diagnosis. And several years later my friend, Ann, was diagnosed with cancer and battled but a short time before she lost her fight. Every day that goes by I find more and more reasons to Relay. I have several friends who are cancer survivors. My husband's uncle, Manny, is a cancer survivor. My sister-in-law, Cindy, lost her fight with ovarian cancer in February 2009. My sister, Linda, and my mother, Virginia, are both breast cancer survivors. With each new diagnosis I become more and more determined to beat this disease before it affects another person. I refuse to stand idly by and see my daughters or husband diagnosed with cancer!

I encourage everyone reading this to unite with me in the fight against cancer. It's never too late to get involved. Please attend the Relay on June 11th at the Free State High School track and you'll get it. All it takes is one time and you're hooked. You too will walk away saying, "I can't wait for Relay to roll around again next year!"

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