Weather Forecast


13-year cancer survivor selling polka dots for cancer

Cole Bethel, a 13-year Neuroblastoma cancer survivor, is selling polka dots to be placed on his mom’s car to raise money for Relay for Life. (Nick Longworth / Enterprise)

By Nick Longworth

If you see a white Chevy Blazer driving around Park Rapids with multi-colored polka dots all over it, it isn’t some new fashion trend.

It very well may make a difference in someone’s life.

Cole Bethel, a 7th grade student at Century Middle School and 13-year Neuroblastoma cancer survivor, can be credited as the one who put the idea in motion to cover his mother Julie’s car for a cause.

“He has been a part of the Relay for Life the past 13 years. This year, being the 20th year for Relay for Life, he wanted to give something additional back to something that has helped him become who he is today. So he came up with the idea to polka dot my car for cancer,” Julie Bethel said.

Cole is no stranger to cancer himself. Having had it since he was born, the struggles and subsequent side-effects to live a normal life are all he’s ever known.

“He was born at St. Joseph’s and one of the nurses was adamant that he had a breathing abnormality. Dr. Benson required him to have an X-ray done of his chest and they found a smoky-mass on the upper left quadrant of his lung area. They decided they didn’t have the facilities here for a surgery so they air lifted him to Fargo. At that point we found out it was not just a mass, it was a tumor,” Julie Bethel said.

“On day five of his life he had his first biopsy surgery. At that point they went through a protocol on their options for him; being so young they didn’t have any set amounts of medication for him. They were kind of shooting in the dark. He became a little bit of a guinea pig. His first round of chemo blasted his white blood cells so bad that the doctors actually thought that they may have stripped his whole immune system. It took seven days to get two white blood cells back in his entire body. He had four rounds of chemo and radiation and then four months into his life he had his last surgery to have the final parts of the tumor removed. When they did that, that’s when the nerve-endings that the tumor wrapped around were severed.”

With the tumor now long gone, Cole still lives with the daily reminders of what he went through to now become cancer-free over a decade later.

“His cancer is past tense, but there are ramifications. He has Horner’s Syndrome, which is a dilation of the eye. He has Harlequin Syndrome, which is where he sweats only on one side of his body; in winter he gets really cold on his left hand and really warm on his right. In the summer he will have a predominant stripe down his face and be red on one side and white on the other. He also has a learning disability called executive dysfunction disorder where his brain doesn’t compartmentalize information efficiently the way a typical brain does. When he tries to remember something he doesn’t have the capability to recall it as quickly. You can tell him something in the morning, and have to stress it in the afternoon and evening to make sure that it gets done,” Julie Bethel said.

“In the summer I usually have to sit down and eat a Popsicle or something to not overheat,” Cole said.

Even with physical and mental afflictions, Cole seems genuinely unaffected by these symptoms today.

Smiling, full of energy and dreading homework like the rest of his class, he is promoting compassion and empathy above everything else. He’s set a goal of selling 1,000 polka dot spots at either $5 or $10 each. Once purchased, they can be placed anywhere (legal) on his mother’s car, and she will drive around as a daily promotion for their cause.

Half of the proceeds will go to the Relay for Life in Park Rapids (at which Cole will be presenting a check) and the other half will be sent to the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo. Specifically, it will go to supporting and comforting those receiving treatment for cancer under Dr. Nathan Kobrinsky - Cole’s doctor.

“I want to get IPads and game systems for the kids who still have to go through treatment,” Cole said.

Currently they have 19 spots sold, or $85, having just decorated the vehicle on Friday, April 11.

“As the cancer has been fixed, there might be other underlying circumstances that come up. That’s why Cole wanted to make sure that the kids who are receiving treatment have support and comfort behind them with it. This is a cancer that can come back. Once you hit a 10-year threshold they say you’re pretty well good to go, but you never know. Our perspective has changed to be more compassionate about what others are going through. Until you have cancer hits your family it doesn’t really affect you. We can relate now,” Julie said.

For more information, follow the cause or donate at

Nick Longworth
A graduate from St. Cloud State University, Nick photographs and writes a variety of stories for nearly every section of The Park Rapids Enterprise. His duties also include section layouts and online content submission.
(218) 732-3364