Cancer doesn’t sleep, so that’s why Relay for Life events are overnight, often lasting 24 hours or longer.
Friday night, Relay for Life teams will set up their colorful tents around the track at the Post Falls Greyhound Park and Event Center, as they have for many years, to raise money for cancer research, while bringing survivors, supporters and their families together to remember, and even celebrate.
The idea is to have each team have a member on the track at all times. The first lap which kicks off Relay for Life is the survivor’s lap. It’s an emotional journey for survivors and spectators alike.
Maria Stellflug is the captain of team The Bald and the Beautiful. At last year’s Relay, her husband Konlin, then 36, had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Konlin’s cousin, also 36, had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Both were bald and as Stellflug said, “beautiful.” Both men are in remission this year.
And Stellflug’s mother beat colon cancer.
“They caught it early enough, so treatments were basically on the preventative side,” she said of her mother.
A friend of Stellflug’s, along with her father who had non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, were also on the team last year.
“This year we’re just celebrating,” Maria said. “I imagine we’ll have about 20 on the team. We represent four cancer survivors on our team.”
Sheryl and Curtis Daniels will participate in Relay, their first in North Idaho. The couple moved here in August 2008 after discovering the area on a visit to see Curtis’ stepbrother. Sheryl, 58, is a five-time cancer survivor.
“She’s a trouper,” Curtis Daniels said. “We can enlighten others that get this disease – give them a heads-up on what to expect.”
Married 17 years, Curtis is her biggest fan and vice-versa. Daniels was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994 when the couple was living in Ashland, Ore., getting ready to move to Eugene, Ore. When she noticed an indentation on her breast, the doctor in Ashland disregarded it. Once in Eugene, she had a mammogram.
“There was something there,” she said. “It was a slow-growing cancer.”
A quarter of her breast was removed – it had 16 lymph nodes that were cancerous or pre-cancerous. After 33 radiation treatments, the doctors found a lump on the other breast. The diagnosis was invasive ductile carcinoma. The breast had 26 lymph nodes which were cancerous or pre-cancerous. Eventually both breasts were removed.
Radiation came again, then chemotherapy, which was done in one session.
Keeping their sense of humor and faith intact, Curtis Daniels had a head-shaving party for his wife when she started to lose her hair.
Daniels elected not do have breast reconstruction or implants because it’s difficult to detect new cancer. The couple said they knew other breast cancer patients whose husbands left them after having a mastectomy.
“One of our close friends – her husband packed up and left,” Daniels said.
Although Curtis Daniels has been there for his wife every step of the way, some of their friends and relatives “vanished.”
“They avoided us like the plague and still do to this day,” Curtis said. “Cancer is a real evil thing. Not only does it decimate you physically, but emotionally, too.”
Now, Daniel’s liver is enlarged, with a 1 1/2-inch spot on it. Her doctor is 99 percent sure it’s cancer. She has also had a hysterectomy because cancer had spread to her reproductive organs. All told, she had cancer five times between 1994 and 2000.
Daniels feels good though, and she and her husband are ready to do the Relay. They have a few sponsors so far but hope to get more.
Fred Tyler lost his wife to cancer. This year will mark his 12th year as the captain of the New Life Gatherers. Tyler knows he will have at least eight on his team.
“It was not so much because of my wife, I just do it to help other people,” he said. “I’m really fortunate because I have about 15 different businesses who contribute.”
Nicol Barnes, community relationship manager with the American Cancer Society, Great West Division, said there are several new teams this year. She expects about 50 teams to participate, adding that spectators and guests are welcome.
There will be food vendors, live music, fireworks Friday night, kids’ activities, carnival games and more.
Money raised will go toward research; in 2008 the Great West Division awarded 99 grants totaling $39.5 million. Of that, $2.1 million was awarded to researchers at the University of Idaho. College scholarships for cancer survivors, camp for kids with cancer, advocacy and other programs also are funded.
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