Survivors will lead Relay for Life ceremony
Margaret Torkelson's hands and feet still are numb, so she hopes she'll make it around the track Friday. She has to - she's carrying a torch that she doesn't want to drop.
But her fellow torchbearer will need a little help getting around.
Margaret is one of dozens of cancer survivors who will walk, run and wheel around the track at Park Rapids Area High School June 20 to raise funds for cancer research and awareness.
The fundraiser is one of several events scheduled for the 14th annual Hubbard County American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
The numbness Margaret experiences is a residual effect of the chemotherapy treatments she endured to combat cancerous tumors in her pelvic region in 1999. This will be the eighth year she's been on a relay team.
She also had a kidney removed and has a permanent colostomy. She's not sure the 2000 kidney removal is attributable to her cancer, ("I don't know if the tumors blocked the kidney, but I did have an aortic blockage in my stomach," she said matter-of-factly) but added that she did have kidney tubes during her regimen of six chemo treatments and 33 days of radiation.
Baby Chance Landstrom, with his mother, Dawn, will be Margaret's fellow torchbearer. Chance was barely 4 months old when he, too, had a cancerous mass removed from his pelvic region just this past March. It was called a malignant neuroblastoma and it was seriously impeding his kidney functions.
"These typically occur in children before they're five," Dawn said. "When we first found out about it, it came as a complete shock," Dawn recalls.
His form of cancer sometimes regresses, Dawn said, but doctors at Children's Hospital in St. Paul chose to remove his tumor because baby Chance couldn't relieve himself and he was in pain. A dry diaper was cause for concern.
Margaret also had a painful stomach. Now she shares her indomitable spirit with many cancer survivors. She dwells on life, not its limitations. She still doesn't drive. Although she'd like to, it's no big deal. "I'm still going strong," she said.
She remembers that day in March 2000 when her checkup revealed that her cancer was gone.
"If it weren't for my friends and family, I probably would not have made it," Margaret said, echoing one familiar strain of cancer survival.
"They were my life support," she said. "Without them people don't go anywhere. My kids were wonderful. For eight months I couldn't do a thing - close my hands, open my refrigerator," she said of the everyday tasks she couldn't accomplish. "The kids were my lifeline," she recalls.
"A healthy attitude is wonderful," Margaret said, listing the second tenet of the cancer survivor's mantra.
Chance meanwhile, has grown to be a healthy baby, even though his parents went through a tough March nine years after Margaret's diagnosis. "He was very fussy and he could not be consoled," Dawn said of her third child.
His tummy felt hard to the touch. Doctors in Fargo referred them to the Twin Cities when tests showed the mass on his bladder. They wanted him to go to a children's oncology unit.
He underwent surgery, catheters and lots of tests and poking around. Eleven days after he was first hospitalized he emerged cancer-free. Doctors had caught his cancer early enough that it hadn't metastasized.
He's really a happy little guy," Dawn said. He now sighs with contentment when he wets his diaper.
Chance will be monitored closely until he's one, then regularly after that. Dawn and husband Cary marvel at their smiling baby.
Chance's Troops, his Relay for Life team, will walk the relay for him - but he'll be wheeling around in his stroller. Dawn has already raised more than $1,100 in sponsorships. Many came from her employer, State Bank of Park Rapids.
Margaret, numb feet and hands, will trudge the track on her own. "You do what you can," she said, then added with a laugh, "I just hope I can finish." She has plenty of support and teammates if her hands - or feet - waiver.
The walk's hours are 1 p.m. until 1 a.m. Friday. Interested persons without a team can just show up and walk any time. A special survivor's lap will be open to cancer survivors, who can register at 6:30 p.m. at the track.
Survivors and families of cancer victims will light special luminaries in a ceremony at 8 p.m. You can purchase a luminaria in honor of a cancer patient for $5 either at the track on the day of the relay or by contacting Rose Higgins at State Bank of Park Rapids.