Next Friday, the lives of many, many people affected by cancer will be celebrated and honored. The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Douglas County is set for Friday, July 11 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds and will run from 6 p.m. through 6 a.m.
Three local people were chosen to serve as honoree survivors during this year’s Relay.
As the community prepares to come together to remember, reflect and celebrate, here are the honoree survivors’ stories:
‘Just let life happen’
When she was 51, Ruth Christenson of Alexandria was diagnosed with ovarian cancer; two years later, in 2009, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
“I have had three surgeries to remove tumors as well as a variety of chemo treatments.
“My ovarian cancer has recurred many times, so I am on what is called ‘maintenance’ chemo pretty much year round,” she said.
When asked about the greatest challenge she’s faced along the way, she said, “I think coming to terms, mentally, with having a disease which there is no cure has been my biggest challenge. Knowing that at some point cancer will take my life…. having a positive and upbeat attitude gets to be more of a struggle with each round of chemo.”
During her cancer journey, Ruth said she knows she has changed.
“I suppose in a way I have learned to not stress about the small things. Just let life happen and enjoy every minute of it.”
Research to find a cure is what she said motivates her to take part in Relay For Life.
“Events like Relay For Life raise money for lots of things associated with cancer, including research. The light at the end of my tunnel is that through research there will be a cure for my cancer; or at least a way to put it into remission, saving me from constant chemo.”
‘Tougher than I thought I was’
Brady Lind, 10, of Alexandria was diagnosed with cancer last year – acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Before his diagnosis, he was a rough-and-tumble boy who loved to play hockey and baseball with his brothers.
It was a possible elbow fracture during a knee hockey game that started his cancer journey.
After a barrage of tests, biopsies and surgeries, Brady was diagnosed on April 12, 2013.
Since then, he has had numerous spinal taps, port placement surgery in his chest to deliver chemo and check blood counts and he takes chemo pills nightly for the entire length of his treatment.
Treatment for ALL typically lasts three years. Brady’s end of treatment date is set for October 12, 2015.
The toughest part so far, Brady said: Hospital stays in Minneapolis and being away from his dad and brothers for so long.
When asked what he’s learned about himself, he said, “I’m tougher than I thought I was.”
As a cancer survivor, why is an event like the Relay For Life important to the Linds? Funding more research to find a cure is motivating Brady and his family to take part in the Relay For Life of Douglas County.
That and, “Meeting people just like me that have fought and won,” he said.
Brady is the son of Scott and Linda Lind.
‘Give hope to those
that think it is hopeless’
Dan Ridler of Alexandria was diagnosed with throat cancer on October 26, 2012.
“I noticed a lump on my neck one night and so started my journey,” he said. “The diagnoses led to another surgery and removal of 13 lymph nodes, a PET scan and the origin of my cancer was found to be at the base of my tongue.”
Dan’s treatments included 39 radiation treatments and three, 21-day chemo injections.
“My greatest challenge was not what I was going through but what my amazing wife Debbie, my daughters and sons-in-law Amanda and Joe Walker and Emily and Scott Gordon were going through.
“Some people had asked me if I was scared. My quick answer was, ‘No, I used to run into burning houses while on the Alexandria Fire Department… this wasn’t that.’ I knew right away I was going to take this cancer on head first and totally win! Like John Wayne said, ‘Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.’”
When asked what he learned about himself during his cancer journey, he said, “I learned that I am not in control at all. God has a plan for us all and I was on His plan, not mine. I have also discovered that not only with God walking beside me I have first the most amazing caregiver in my wife, my family and my incredible circle of friends, the Alexandria Fire Department and co-workers.”
As a cancer survivor, Dan said Relay For Life has taken on huge importance.
“My mother passed away from cancer 20 years ago and my father last July. I am honored and humbled by everyone’s generosity, continued prayers and support.
“My promise to all is to continue to pay forward and Relay For Life is an amazing tool to help me accomplish this. My wishes are that as a survivor, I can give hope to those that think it is hopeless,” he said.