This is who we walk for: Relay for Life

This is the weekend we have been looking forward to: Relay for Life.

This is the time when we get together to honor survivors, to remember those who have lost their fights with cancer, and to ask everyone in the community to come together and support the efforts - both financially and by being a part of the group.

Join us  at the Pagosa Springs High School athletic field for a wonderful evening in celebration of those who have survived cancer and  to honor those that have not.  Friday June 19, 6 p.m.  for the Opening Ceremony and the Survivors Lap.   

The carnival is open for all the children from 4  to 9 p.m. Friday.  The silent auction is one you will not want to miss; there are a variety of items available from our community and our skilled craftsman.  This is a must see!  There will be  food, music, food, fun and more food all night long.  At 7 p.m. there is a tap dancing exhibition; at 7:15 you will enjoy The Navel Experience, with local belly dancers; and at 7:45 you won’t want to miss the line dancing. 

 The Luminaria Lighting  Ceremony is at 9 p.m.  This is a time when all of the bags purchased and decorated are lighted and fill the stadium with a warm glow.  The sight is breathtaking.  There have been several hundred luminaria in the past. 

The closing ceremony is  Saturday morning at 9 a.m. right after the warm breakfast of eggs, potatoes and other goodies.  Cancer never sleeps, and neither will we! 

Awareness is the first step in the battle against cancer — awareness on a general level, and awareness in the context of individual lives..

Twelve million people in the United States live with cancer. Becoming aware of our bodies and taking the steps to maintain our health is the first step toward beating the disease.

It is a family disease. I had the opportunity to hear the stories of five people in Pagosa Springs who have shared their journey from their diagnosis to where they are today. These are only a few of the people whom we Relay for.

Dennis Dunlap a five-year prostate cancer survivor shares his journey. “ In June 2004 I went for a routine physical exam. The doctor felt a nodule when she did the digital prostate exam. She gave me a referral to a urologist. In September I had a biopsy. Those weeks waiting for the biopsy seemed an eternity. After the biopsy the doctor came to me and said those words I will never forget: “You have cancer.” I was stunned, my thoughts and my life were spinning. I couldn’t think or hear anything else. Am I going to die? Some how I managed to ask what do we do now? I went to several different physicians — internal radiation, external radiation, and surgeons. I had the surgery. Today I know I am very grateful for that routine examination. My outlook on life has totally changed. I can see the beauty in life and my surroundings. I have been blessed. I am here to support and encourage other men over 50 and to carry the message that PSA and routine examinations need to be a part of their lives.’

Cindy Coward is a colon cancer survivor. She shares her story: “In November 2007 I had a pain in my side. When I awakened the next day I felt fine. However my husband forced me to go to the doctor because he had never seen me with such pain. Although I felt fine I went. Dr. Mazzola said she wasn’t comfortable with my physical findings and wanted me to have a CAT scan. I told he I would, but she insisted I go right away. They saw “something” and wanted me to have a colonoscopy and biopsy. They made the appointment for me right away. When I returned to my room after the colonoscopy, they asked my husband to come in and said, ‘You have a cancerous tumor.’ My first thought was that they must have the wrong patient. Shock, anger, fear, denial. Within three days I had a colectomy, followed by eight weeks of chemotherapy. Everything happened so quickly. I know today that my husband, my doctor, and my surgeons have saved my life. I would have procrastinated, saying I was fine. I can’t stress enough that everyone over 50 needs to get a colonoscopy. It can save your life too. Don’t look for excuses, cancer does not discriminate. Do it today.”

Elizabeth Danielle Bailey is a 4-year-old girl. Her story is told by her grandmother Becky Abraham. “March 12, 2009, was a beautiful day in Pagosa. Elizabeth was outside playing with her siblings. It was three weeks after her tonsillectomy. Her parents had hoped this would help her fatigue, earaches, sleep apnea and speech problems. But she wasn’t feeling as well as they had hoped. That evening they took her to Pagosa Mountain Hospital. After monitoring her for several hours later they sent her by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center. Her parents insisted that they begin aggressive testing. When the doctor came out to the waiting room after her MRI, they weren’t prepared for the news. ‘Elizabeth has a brain tumor.’ She went immediately by Life Flight to the Children’s Hospital in Denver. How can one describe the emotion of learning that your child/sister/grandchild/niece/ little friend has a critical illness? Fear, helplessness, shock, denial, and grief. By the time Elizabeth entered the Intensive Care Unit, March 13, she had lost her ability to swallow and was paralyzed on the left side. The doctors wanted to take her to surgery, but she developed some complications. Finally, March 24, she went to surgery. After six hours of surgery the doctors came out and said it was benign, but they could not remove it all, so she would need 14 months of chemotherapy. After 31 days in the Intensive Care Unit, and 25 days of rehab she could be discharged May 8. In the midst of difficulty, wonderful things can be experienced and learned. Our family has learned to live in the present, and we have become aware of what is really important. Family and friends are treasured in a deeper way. Listen to your gut, your body, and your physician. Don’t procrastinate.”

Oceana Bird is a 4-year-old girl. Her mother tells her story. “Sunday, June 22, Oceana had a nosebleed. We took her to the emergency room at the Pagosa Mountain Hospital. The doctor there pricked her finger to do some blood tests. We quickly found out we had bigger problems that her nose bleed. He said her blood was not clotting and that she has leukemia. He immediately called Children’s Hospital in Denver and they sent a plane for her and took her to Denver. What a whirlwind. We barely had time to think or understand what is going on. When we arrived at Children’s Hospital they scheduled her for surgery on Monday, June 23. She had a medi-port placed in central vein so that they could draw her blood frequently without having to stick her. They did a spinal tap and a bone marrow aspiration. And administered her first dose of chemotherapy. They said she had acute lymphocytic leukemia. That is the best kind to have, they said. We were relieved. She has spent this last year going through her intensive chemotherapy and blood counts. She has experienced, vomiting, hair loss, hives, fevers, infections and good days. She has now had her last dose of intensive therapy. She will begin her maintenance therapy Wednesday June 17, 2009. We will continue to be very busy with her treatments. We are thrilled to be at this point. I am doing my best to stay positive and to insist that the cancer not return. It is always lingering like a demon in the back of my mind. We are grateful for the positive thoughts and prayers.”

Trey Lloyd is a 4-year-old boy. His mother tells his story. “Trey was originally diagnosed with leukemia in November 2005. He has received the standard chemotherapy for the past three years. In January 2009 he had a recurrence in the Central nervous System. Since then he has had to stay in the Denver area to receive aggressive chemotherapy treatments for a year. This will be followed by radiation to the brain at the end of chemotherapy. During the last three years we have been blessed that Trey has not had any infections. He has suffered from loss of appetite and dehydration. We have convinced him to eat Taco Bell, and he is has been eating those lately. He continues to have good spirits. It is very hard on us to be away from our business and lives in Pagosa. But this time spent with Trey is a gift and we are happy to be with him as he regains his strength and gets better. We can’t wait to be home in Pagosa. We hope to see everyone at the Relay for Life.”

For more information about this year’s Relay for Life, call Kathi DeClark, 731-9920.

Trey Lloyd Oceana Bird

Elizabeth Danielle Bailey

Dennis Dunlap Cindy Coward