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Relay For Life helps make a difference for cancer patients

Posted 5/27/09 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

For most people cancer is never far from their minds, and even though there always seems to be somebody you know battling the disease, it still seems impossible to think that the next person you know with cancer could be you.
That’s exactly how Lowaine Gudmunsen felt, until she was the one sitting in the doctor’s office getting that awful news.
“I went into the doctor for something completely unrelated,” says Gudmunsen. “But the doctor wanted to do a CAT scan and that is how we found out that I had small cell lung cancer.”
As a teenager, Gudmunsen lost her grandmother to cancer and as a result she’s been a longtime and active member of the Arnegard Relay For Life Team.
“Every year there is someone in our community who has been diagnosed or lost someone to cancer. I knew I wasn’t immune to it, but I didn’t think it would be me this year,” adds Gudmunsen. “I feel so lucky to live in an area where I have so much support. I carry that support with me, and on the tough days I really feel it.”
Fortunately for Gudmunsen, the cancer was caught early and she was given a good prognosis. “I was diagnosed in February and I just completed my treatments on May 15,” says a joyful Gudmunsen. “It sounds to me like it’s a done deal. I’ve had a couple of CAT scans during treatment and the doctors think this will be the end. But if I have to go back for more treatments then oh well, I’m not above that.”
For three months, Gudmunsen traveled to Williston almost daily for radiation and chemotherapy, hoping that the worst of her treatment would be the loss of her hair.
“The treatments made me tired, but that was pretty much my only side effect,” comments Gudmunsen. “It is frustrating that I can’t do some of the things I used to think were simple tasks that took very little energy, like unloading the dishwasher. Something that seemed so simple before now takes me two or three attempts to finish.”
With her treatments finished, but still plagued by fatigue, Gudmunsen’s new goal is to be able to walk the entire Survivors Lap at this year’s Relay For Life.
It’s going to be very different this year. I never dreamt I’d be a survivor,” comments Gudmunsen. “I have my survivor shirt and they’ve asked me to walk the first lap with three other people while holding the banner, I just hope I’m strong enough to make it all the way around.”
Relay For Life teams have been working hard to raise money for the American Cancer Society and plan this year’s Rugged West Relay For Life, which marks the 25th anniversary of the first ever Relay For Life event.
“Cancer isn’t a death sentence like it once was and that is why Relay For Life is so important,” states Gudmunsen. “The money raised through the Relay has a big impact on cancer because it allows for more research into cures and more awareness for early detection.”
This year’s Rugged West Relay For Life will be held at the Fridley Field beginning with a free supper at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 29.
“The entire event is open to the public,” says Chris Wold, Rugged West Relay For Life co-chairman. “The opening ceremony begins at 7 p.m. with the Survivor Lap and from their the festivities go on all night.”
Those wishing to help light luminary bags can bring their lighter and help out beginning at 9 p.m. and stay for the fireworks display after all of the bags have been lit. The evening progresses with entertainment, auctions and fundraisers until the closing prayer service at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning.
“If you’ve never been to the Relay,” says Gudmunsen. “You really should check it out. The whole thing is just amazing.”