For those here or gone: more tales from Relay for Life

Second of two parts

An eighth of a mile at a time, people took steps against cancer July 21-22.

Twenty-seven teams kept the pace for 24 hours at Hood River County Fairgrounds in the 16th annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life fundraiser.

“I want to thank you all so much for doing this,” said keynote speaker Terry Joyer, a 14-year breast cancer survivor, and longtime Relay committee member. She told of the painful family odyssey of cancer: hers, her father’s, her mother’s and her daughter’s.

Joyer encouraged participants, and survivors, to “Please don’t give up. So many of us come out and we say, ‘We’re not going to do this,’ and here we are again. So please come out and keep doing what you’re doing — sharing and giving back — and hopefully you’ll never ever have to hear those words; but if you do, there’s hope because of all of us.”

Relay combines a social gathering, fitness experience, some fun and games, a plethora of prizes, barbecue and cold drinks, and plenty of conversation and connecting.

The ardors of cancer were all clear factors in the lives of many people interviewed July 21 as Relay got going. Some were in treatment and recovery or had family or friends who have the disease and many were grieving for those who have died.

Joyer’s impassioned keynote speech was published in the July 28 edition, along with tales from several cancer survivors who walked in the Relay.

What follows are four more such stories of survival or personal connections to cancer.

Aaron Weseman,

Parkdale

“Do I sport it well?” Weseman jokes, pointing to the “survivor” sash across his chest.

In the first week of July 2011 Weseman was diagnosed with lung cancer. “I got to spend all last summer spending time with the guys at Celilo (Cancer Center),” he said.

“Good, yeah,” Weseman says when asked how he is feeling at this moment. He is glad to be at Relay, his first.

“It’s amazing that a year ago it felt like someone had let the wind out of my sails and you’re not sure where tomorrow is going to bring you. And today, I’m out here with a lot of good people,” Weseman said, starting the day’s walk with his wife, Stefanie, at his side.

“As far as treatment goes, I finished end of September — now in the waiting period when I go in every three months and do lab work and scans and check everything. The last news I had was that my cancer had shrunk down. They won’t give me any definite answers. It’s a time thing. They just watch and see how things change.”

Weseman never smoked, never lived in a home with smokers.

“I messed up everyone’s statistics, according to the thoracic surgeon who did the biopsies in Portland,” he said.

Martha Hoskins,

Hood River

“Won-der-ful. I’m here, celebrating all of this,” said Martha Hoskins, a breast cancer survivor, when asked how she was feeling Saturday.

“I can’t walk because of a recent stroke but I will stay a few hours to pay tribute to all of those who are surviving or who are here, and that’s why I’m here, to do a luminaria for past people I knew and loved. I walk as much as I can and then go sit down for awhile.”

Suzanne Lusk,

Hood River

A member of Team Tamura CenturyLink, Lusk said her reason for doing Relay is “to raise money for everybody who either knows someone who needs treatment — for the survivors or people we’ve lost so we can take care of them and have new products and medications and ways to save people lives. It’s a terrible disease, and it affects a lot of people.”

She is also a volunteer with West Side Fire Department, one of several that help with Relay in a variety of ways.

Lusk said she has aunts and cousins who had cancer, “and even in high school I had friends who had cancer. It’s terrible. We have lost a lot of people.

“It is great to see everyone coming out and pitching in,” she said. “We’re all here for a great cause, especially the fire departments because that’s what we’re all about — saving lives.”

Donna Davis, Odell

“This is the first time I’ve been here, since being diagnosed with cancer. I said, ‘I gotta go to this.’” Davis was diagnosed with breast cancer on Feb. 2, 2012.

“I got done with chemo on June 12, and had another genetic test and it showed an 84 percent chance it’s going to return,” Davis said. She is scheduled for extensive surgery in August.

“It is tough, but I have a lot of support,” she said.

“The main reason I’m fighting so hard is I have new grandchildren. When you’re diagnosed with cancer it is really scary but you’ve got to be tough. A positive attitude helps, and Celilo helped a lot. The nurses and doctors all have positive attitudes.”

Nancy Lane,

Hood River

Lane is part of Team Maurice, who won for team spirit in 2011. They got a waiver of the team fee, and a special VIP location this year.

“This is our little passion project,” she said. “It’s a good way to be a part of the community.” She and her husband, Jeremy, are “passionate about being part of community things, and we encourage our kids to get involved in things.” (Their children, Michael and Mercedes, joined Relay.) “You gotta put roots in somewhere and this is a good place to start.”

Nancy was asked, “How do you put a team together?”

“You just spread the word. A lot of people are passionate about cancer research. It’s just exciting.

“My story is that my biological mom passed away with cancer when I was 1. So I was adopted.” Her mother’s name was Rita Torres. Lane explains, “as she passed, her very good friends adopted me.” (They are Earline and Royden Roberts of Hood River, her parents.)

“Here I am, a Mexican kid, their kids were raised; my closest sibling is 13 years older than me. I had lived with them since six months, when my mom got sick, and they formalized the adoption when I was 1.

“Last year, in the ceremony it was the first time we had ever participated in that for the evening. My husband had my mom’s name read, and she went from being a ghost to being real for me. It was really amazing.”

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