Honorary cancer survivors share stories: Relay for Life event takes place Friday
In just two days, the Douglas County Fairgrounds will be a hubbub of activity and hundreds of laps will be taken. But instead of race cars going round and round at the speedway, it will be hundreds of feet walking laps during this year's Douglas County Relay for Life.
The annual event takes place on Friday, July 12, beginning at 5 p.m. This year's three honorary survivors are Austin Baune, Dennis Anhalt and Cindy Ziegelman.
Here's a look at the three honorees:
Diagnosed at age 4
About a week before Memorial Day 2011, Austin Baune of Garfield had been walking with a limp. The 4-years-old's mom, Molly, said her son wasn't feeling that great and also had a rash on his body. Thinking he may have fractured his foot or something similar, he was brought into the clinic, where x-rays and a blood test revealed nothing. Two days later, after all his lymph nodes were swollen, they went back to the clinic and were immediately sent to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis.
On June 1 of that same year, Austin was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, known as ALL. This is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
Based on his age at the time and his gender, Austin required three and a half years of treatment, consisting of chemotherapy administered via a spinal tap, oral medications and IV medications. Molly also said her son needed two years of antibiotics. They were both thankful that he did not require any transplants or surgeries.
Austin, who is now 12, had his last chemo treatment on Aug. 5, 2014, and is considered in remission.
He is participating in the Relay for Life event for the first time, and says that being an honorary survivor means that people want to hear from him and what he can teach them about cancer, and also means that he wants to survive.
Molly hopes he shows people that you can go through cancer, survive and live a full life.
"It means that you give hope to parents so that they don't lose hope," Austin said, "and that praying to God helps."
The Baune family, which also includes Austin's sister, Elly, 14, and his dad, Tony, will all be participating, along with other family and friends.
Trust your gut
Dennis Anhalt came home from wintering in Fort Myers, Florida in early 2017, and went to the doctor because he said his hearing was diminished and he had crud in his throat.
Some over-the-counter medicine was recommended and after three days, he knew something just wasn't right. He was referred to an ear, nose and throat specialty doctor. A lump was found behind his ear, and a tumor was found on his tongue, he said.
Anhalt was sent to the Sanford Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo, where a team of four main doctors worked to figure out his treatment plan and rid him of the cancer attacking his lymph nodes. His diagnosis was squamous cell carcinoma. Three rounds of chemo and seven weeks of radiation preceded surgery, when 16 lymph nodes were removed, he said.
During his treatments, especially the radiation, Anhalt was thankful for the medications that helped him through the pain. He is also thankful to the Amercian Cancer Society.
"I am a fan forever," he said. "When I started my treatment, they helped find me free or reduced-price lodging."
That helped since his treatments were five days a week, and Anhalt was in Fargo from Monday through Friday. He was also provided with gas cards from the cancer society.
Through the experience, the 71-year-old has met people who he called "friends for life."
Anhalt, who was a longtime announcer for KXRA Radio in Alexandria, stressed the importance of everyone who prayed for him, and that if people think something is wrong with them to get checked.
"Don't procrastinate, just get checked and trust your gut," he said.
Cindy Ziegelman had her first bout of cancer in 1983. But according to her friends who nominated her, Cynthia Yell and Renae Haugen, she survived and moved forward with a positive attitude.
A self-proclaimed "real private person," Ziegelman said those friends asked her permission before nominating her, and that being one of the honorary survivors is all "kind of overwhelming." She didn't share much about her journey, but said she had a second bout of cancer in 2012. Although she is stable, she said, "I'm still battling and I always will."
In the nomination letter, Yell and Haugen used the words resilience, perseverance, positivity and fearless fighter to describe Ziegelman. Not once during her cancer fight did they see Ziegelman wane from her positive attitude.
"Cindy went through her radiation and chemo in stride, with the attitude the radiation and chemotherapy were tools to help her improve her life," her friends wrote. "Even though she immediately found herself adapting to living her life in a different way, this was just one more challenge she was handed and she would endure the challenge and conquer."
Yell and Haugen said their friend's cancer in July 2012 left her with an initial diagnosis of around a 12-month survival rate. On July 13, 2018, she participated in the survivor lap at the Relay for Life event. That day was exactly six years since her July 13, 2012, diagnosis of cancer.
"Cindy represents each day as a blessing and is a positive survivor who seeks improvement in herself considering she has battled and outlived her diagnosis by six years," Yell and Haugen wrote.
Ziegelman will be attending the event with family and friends.
Anyone can come and participate, even those who are not on a team.
• 5 p.m. Relay for Life begins with registration, music, fundraising, supper (a free-will donation for non-team members) and more.
• 6 p.m. Opening ceremonies include a blessing, the national anthem, honoree stories, survivor lap and caregiver lap.
• 6:45 p.m. Supper resumes in the Heritage Building, medallion and scavenger hunt begins and fundraising lanes reopen.
• 7-8 p.m. Registration opens for "So You 'Relay' Think You Can Dance" contest, open to those age 16 or older. Contestants will learn the routine to perform later in the evening.
• 7 p.m. Children's games, Log Building.
• 7:15 p.m. Kiddie parade lap. Kids up to 10 are encouraged to decorate a "float" for the parade. Floats can be bikes, big-wheels, wagons, strollers or anything that moves by human power only. Decorating is encouraged ahead of time as there will be limited supplies on hand that night. Awards will be given to the best decorated float.
• 7:45 p.m. Box Car Derby. Boxes are provided and can be picked up by the Log Building and then participants are encouraged to decorate them.
• 8-10:45 p.m. Music by Blonde and the Bohunk on the main stage.
• 8-9 p.m. Dance contest practice.
• 8:45 p.m. Messages to Heaven. White balloon release. Balloons can be purchased at Fundraising Lane that night.
• 9:15 p.m. (approximately) Luminaria ceremony at dusk.
• 11 p.m. Fight back ceremony and Zumba.
• 11:30 p.m. Final dance practice for those participating in the dance contest.
• Midnight "So You 'Relay' Think You Can Dance" contest.
• 12:45 a.m. Final lap and closing ceremonies
• 1 a.m. Clean up, carbs and Caribou Coffee.
All registered teams will receive a pedometer, with a goal of keeping it moving around the track for the entire event. The team with the most steps will win a prize.