Douglas County cancer survivors share their story
Eleven million, seven hundred thousand people were affected with cancer in 2007, and the number continues to rise. But growing support, care and remembrance unites those affected by cancer.
The American Cancer Society's 27th annual Relay for Life will be taking place on July 8 and 9 at Citizens Field in Alexandria. The fundraising event will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday and run until 6 a.m. on Saturday.
The honorees for this year's event are Dennis Stark, Dale Erickson and Anne Riggs - all residents of Douglas County.
Dennis Stark was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007.
"What was interesting, was that the week I was going to have the surgery, three good friends of mine called and said they had had the exact same surgery," Stark noted. "Eighteen months later (2009) the PSA, a protein which increases in the presence of prostate cancer and other prostate problems, began elevating and I started radiation treatment. The odd thing was, the three friends who had called...also went through radiation after the surgery at about the same time."
Statistics show that one out of every three males will have some issues with prostate cancer.
"My message for the general population and males in the community is to stay proactive and on top of things. I was lucky to be diagnosed early enough and able to receive treatment," Stark said.
Though Stark was asked last year to participate in the Relay for Life, he was not able to make it. This year, he is honored to participate.
In January 2001, Dale Erickson was diagnosed with cancer. Ten years later, he continues to raise funds for cancer through Relay for Life.
"This year, 30 people in my office are participating in the relay," Erickson noted. "So far we have raised $3,000."
Erickson also shares his experience with the surgery, his recovery, and why he chose surgery over radiation.
"I remember one gentleman who called me the night before his surgery," Erickson noted. "He told me he was thinking about backing out. But I told him that he would feel so much better after the surgery was over."
In the past few years, his story has touched numerous people who were about to go through the same experience.
Erickson always believed that the cancer was harder on his family than himself.
"They had to wait in the waiting room during the surgery," Erickson recalls. "I, on the other hand, woke up and asked, "When are we going to start?'"
This is Erickson's third year in the relay.
"When I was first diagnosed with cancer in 1995, they told me I would only live one to three years longer," Anne Riggs recalls. "At the time, my daughter was pregnant with her first child. My dream was to live long enough to see her be born - and now she is 15! I was extremely lucky."
Riggs gives credit to the great medical help and staff at the Douglas County Hospital. "They all have such great skill, love and care," she noted.
After Riggs' two sisters were diagnosed with ovarian and breast cancer, Riggs hoped she would not get it. But now, she has changed her stance, and says, "Cancer, for me, was a blessing. Surviving the chemo and surgery gave me the courage to do what I would have never dreamed of doing."
With this new-found courage, Riggs ran her first marathon a few years ago. She has now run five total, "and I'm not stopping yet!" she said. She also enjoys kayaking, biking, white water rafting and other activities she would not have done before cancer.
Riggs also visits people diagnosed with cancer and talks to them about her experience, and also has many support groups. Riggs commented, "We laugh a lot - you need to have some humor in life."
2011 Relay for Life
Friday, July 8 to
Saturday July 9
6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Jefferson High School