Joining the fight

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By Michel Northsea

Although those walking the first lap at Friday evening’s Relay for Life at West Port High School wore the same dark purple T-shirt saying they were cancer survivors, each person’s story was different.

It was 1987 when Odin Olson, On Top of the World, first learned he had lymphoma. Chemotherapy was necessary. He has had several relapses in the past but now he is in remission.

Duane Ulery moved to Oak Run two weeks ago. As he walked the first lap, his wife Janet snapped photos of her husband with the plan to send them to back to his doctor in Ohio.

Ulery now sports a full head of hair again as his recovery continues. Friday evening was the first-ever relay event he had walked.

Susan Marano, of Fore Ranch and a fitness instructor at On Top of the World, has battled several different types of cancer. At 43, she learned she had breast cancer. Two years later, she was diagnosed with urinary cancer.

“Urinary cancer saved my life because they found I had ovarian cancer too,” she said.

Walking the first lap, with her friend Becky Kelsch, of Fairfield Village, was also a celebration of surviving.

On Thursday, a triple cat scan had shown she was cancer free.

Walking the relay on the Home Depot team, Kelsch is also getting some training in for her next event. She is walking the 3-Day event, 60-miles, against cancer in Philadelphia in October.

She walked her first three-day event in 2004 in New York. In 2007 and 2008, she walked in Tampa’s event. The first event she walked with her friend, Chris Montgomery. This year, Chris wanted to walk again so they agreed to the Philadelphia walk.

During the opening ceremonies, Relay Chairperson Jeannette Snodgrass said the mere mention of the word “cancer” would put a “lump in her throat.”

Although a small crowd, spirited participants decorated their campsites, sold purple beads, chances for an Ipod, competed in games, ate hamburgers, hot dogs and cotton candy and walked and walked and walked.

This year’s Relay for Life was the 25 anniversary of the American Cancer Society event. An estimated $5,100 was raised during the event.