Cancer survivor Traci Rush is looking forward to the Mountain Area Relay for Life on Aug. 24 at Conifer High School.
“I just finished my second Relay for Life this past weekend,” Rush said. “It is the most uplifting, incredible experience to go through … I loved it.”
For Rush, being a part of the American Cancer Society fund-raiser is a celebration of the progress she has made in her battle against the disease, and a way of connecting with others who have faced similar struggles.
“I feel like going to these events helps,” she said.
The past two years have been challenging for Conifer resident Rush, to say the least. After receiving a diagnosis of stage 4 uterine cancer in July 2010, the focus of her life became overcoming the illness.
Rush had a complete hysterectomy to remove as much cancerous tissue as possible and then began chemotherapy, which she said drained her energy and left her feeling ill.
“Chemo will knock you down on your knees,” she said.
Rush’s mother came from Iowa to help out during her recovery. “You always need your mom,” she said. Her teenage daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend, who recently married, also were very supportive, she said.
“I was down at least a couple of months,” Rush said.
While coping with the side effects of treatment, changes in her physical appearance also were unsettling. Along with hair loss, Rush said her eyebrows and eyelashes fell out as well.
Although the American Cancer Society offers wigs free of charge to patients through its Feel Good, Look Good program, Rush said she wasn’t comfortable wearing one.
“When you look at yourself, it’s not you,” she said.
Rush chose to wear a ball cap instead, which she said protected her to some degree. While coping with her recovery, Rush also was concerned about keeping her job as an officer manager, going to work as much as possible.
Rush also started taking anti-cancer medication, which she continued through 2011.
Yet despite all the treatment, the results of a CAT scan earlier this year confirmed that Rush’s cancer had returned.
“They immediately started chemo again,” she said.
After she finished her last treatment in mid-May, Rush said her doctors told her that they haven’t seen any tumor growth. “I am not on any sort of medication right now,” she said.
When she was diagnosed with cancer, Rush said her first reaction was, “How did this happen to me?” There is no history of cancer in her immediate family, she said.
The incidence of cancer is substantial in the United States. According to statistics from the American Cancer Society, 1,596,670 new cases of cancer were projected to occur in 2011 along with 571, 950 deaths in the United States.
“People feel helpless in the face of cancer,” said Conifer resident Paul Ogle, who is organizing the Mountain Area Relay for Life, an overnight relay in which teams of walkers raise funds.
The community-wide event in August will fight cancer while also honoring survivors and caregivers, Ogle said. A special part of the event involves the luminarias that will line the Conifer High track, on which team members and cancer survivors will walk.
Teams of approximately 10 people will take part in the Aug. 24 event, which begins at 6 p.m. and lasts until 6 a.m. the following morning.
Each team member has a goal of raising $100 for the Cancer Society, 93 percent of which is donated to the organization. Cancer survivors participate at no cost.
“This is the largest nonprofit fund-raising event in the world,” Ogle said.
Contact reporter Sandy Barnes at HYPERLINK "mailto:email@example.com" firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-350-1042.
Relay for Life kickoff party
People who would like to participate in the Mountain Area Relay for Life are invited to the kickoff party on Tuesday, July 10, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Mountain Home in the Evergreen Design Center, 27965 Meadow Drive.
This is an opportunity to learn about the relay and register teams. The team registration fee will be waived for those who register at the kickoff.
All ages are welcome, and refreshments will be provided.
For more information, contact Paul Ogle at HYPERLINK "mailto:email@example.com" firstname.lastname@example.org, call 303-816-6222 or visit HYPERLINK "http://www.mountainarearelay.com" www.mountainarearelay.com.