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Cancer courage commended: Relay for Life honors 3 survivors

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Three Douglas County residents. Three types of cancer. Three survivors. One goal.

The American Cancer Society's 25th annual Relay for Life will take place this Friday, July 10 at Citizen's Field in Alexandria.

The fundraising event will begin at 6 p.m., Friday and will run through 6 a.m., Saturday, July 11.

The honorees for this year's event are Barb Russell, Cody Saurdiff and Alex Eggert - all residents of Douglas County.

Relay for Life represents the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, those who face cancer will be supported and that one day, cancer will be eliminated.

Money raised is used to fund local community programs and services for cancer patients and their families, as well as fund cancer research.

White and brown paper bags illuminated with candlelight will line the track of Citizen's Field at Jefferson High School. The brown paper bags will be decorated with names of those who are survivors. White paper bags will display names of those who have lost their courageous battle with cancer.

About the event

Survivor registration will begin at 5:30 p.m. with opening ceremonies taking place at 6 p.m. During the opening ceremonies, the survivors will share their stories.

At about 6:30 p.m., the annual survivor lap will take place, followed by a caregiver lap and the team lap.

Luminaries will be lit and lined around the track in honor of cancer survivors or those who have lost their lives to the disease. The suggested donation is $10 per luminary.

Luminaries can be purchased during the event or from any Relay for Life team member.

The honorees

Barb Russell

For 58-year-old Barb Russell, participating in the Relay for Life isn't something new. However, being an honorary chairperson is.

Russell, who lives on Lake Ida with her husband, Larry, participated in the Douglas County Relay for Life last year and has also participated in the relay in Mcleod County a couple of times.

In April of 2002, she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

"I was only supposed to live five years. I've lived seven," Russell, who has a positive and upbeat attitude, said proudly.

Four years after her first diagnosis, in April of 2006, she was diagnosed again, this time the cancer hit her sciatic nerve. Again, she received chemo treatments, but they didn't work.

Russell underwent a procedure called Cyberknife, which is a new radiotherapy treatment. She received five treatments, which she said, seem to be working. She also had a pain pump put in place, which helps to alleviate the pain associated with the cancer that attacked her sciatic nerve.

Being an honorary chairperson at this year's Relay for Life event is an honor for Russell, who said the event is a great way to promote awareness for all types of cancer.

She has several family members who will be participating, including her two children and their spouses, her five grandchildren and a couple of sisters and their spouses. And of course, her husband, whom she said has worked really hard for this year's event. His team, Wrapped in Prayer, has raised more than $2,500.

Cody Saurdiff

Being involved in the Relay for Life is not new for Cody Saurdiff either. He and his sister, Stacy Thun, have participated several times before because Stacy's husband, Bruce Thun, has cancer.

This year, however, Saurdiff's sister asked him if he would like to be an honorary chairperson.

About three years ago, Saurdiff, who will be a junior at Jefferson High School in Alexandria this fall, found out he had testicular cancer. He underwent surgery to remove the tumor and received chemotherapy treatments.

Recently, he had another surgery and underwent more chemotherapy. This time, a tumor was removed from his abdomen.

"I just finished that up," said the bubbly 16 year old of his chemo treatments.

When his sister asked him to be an honorary chairperson, Saurdiff said he thought it would be fun.

"It would give me a chance to yell at the world," said Saurdiff, explaining that by yelling, he meant he would have the opportunity to give a speech.

When asked if he was angry about his cancer, Saurdiff simply said no, stating, "I just like to give speeches."

Saurdiff is the son of Barb and Bob Saurdiff of Alexandria.

Alex Eggert

This will be the first time 8-year-old Alex Eggert of Alexandria will be participating as an honorary chairperson for the Douglas County Relay for Life.

It's his second time participating in this event in this area. He was also an honoree at a Relay for Life event in Brainerd.

His mom, Heidi, said he has been participating in Relay for Life events since the age of 3, which is when he was first diagnosed with cancer - medulloblastoma, which is a stage four brain tumor.

Eggert's mom explained that he had surgery to remove the tumor and then he had 30 radiation treatments and nine chemotherapy treatments.

He has now been cancer-free for the past five years.

Eggert loves being an honorary chairperson. "He loves it because he says that then, he's in charge," said his mom.

At the event, Eggert's mom will be telling his story because according to her, if she let him talk, he would "talk all night because he loves to tell stories!"

Eggert has a team - Animals for Alex - that will be participating in Friday's Relay for Life event. Family members on his team include two grandmothers, an uncle and a cousin. Eggert is the big brother of Katlyn, 5, and Kyle, 3.


Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society's signature activity. Teams of people camp out at a local high school, park or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Relays are an overnight event, up to 24 hours in length.

It is a life-changing experience that brings together more than 3.5 million people to:

•Celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer. The strength of survivors inspires others to continue to fight.

•Remember loved ones lost to the disease. At the relay, people who have walked alongside people battling cancer can grieve and find healing.

•Fight back. People "relay" because they have been touched by cancer and desperately want to put an end to the disease.


5:30 p.m. - Survivor registration.

6 p.m. - Opening ceremony "Celebrate."

6:30 p.m. - Survivor celebration lap, caregiver lap and team lap.

6:45 to 9 p.m. - Dinner (free-will offering) and activities.

9 p.m./dusk - Luminary ceremony "Remember."

11 p.m. - "Fight back" ceremony.

11:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. - activities.

5 a.m. - Awards and closing ceremony.

6 a.m. - Breakfast