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Relay For Life Ambassadors

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Four Have Fought Cancer Battle

Exercise has long been known to reduce a person’s risk for getting cancer, and walking is often one of the easiest ways to exercise.

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Hundreds, potentially more than a thousand, people will walk during the 2013 Mills County Relay for Life. The event runs from 4 p.m. June 1 to 8 a.m. June 2 at Ram Memorial Field in Glenwood. Leading the event will be four Relay for Life ambassadors - Bob Blasi of Glenwood, Mary May of rural Silver City, Mary Renze of Glenwood and Roger Wyant of Malvern.

Relay For Life chair Kathy Reisner said the ambassadors have a very important role. “They lead off the team walk at 4 p.m.,” Reisner stated. “They also begin the lighting of the luminary service at 8:30 p.m.”

BOB BLASI

Blasi’s battle with cancer began two decades ago. “I retired as principal of Glenwood High School in 1992. We (Blasi and his wife, Bev) had some Breadeaux Pizza businesses in northern Iowa, so I moved to Webster City.”

During that year, Blasi lost about 50 pounds, which he then attributed to an increase in physical work. He was also uncomfortable laying on his stomach. In early June 1993 Blasi saw Dr. Subhash Sahai in Webster City. The doctor told Blasi, “I feel a huge tumor.” More than a foot of Blasi’s colon was removed surgically June 6, 1993, at a clinic in Webster City. Blasi then started chemotherapy, which he endured for about six months before he told the doctors he didn’t want to do it any more. June will mark Blasi’s 20th anniversary of being cancer free, but he continues to get a colonoscopy every five years.

Blasi has been walking in the Mills County Relay for Life since he started, and he’s always walked the survivor lap. This year, he’ll be a member of the Glenwood Optimist Club team.

MARY MAY

May is also a colon cancer survivor. A softball-sized tumor was discovered in her system Aug. 22, 1998. Four days later, she saw Dr. Paula Tremuhlen at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. May was first given chemotherapy through an infusion port. The chemotherapy ran 24 hours a day for five weeks. She had surgery Nov. 17 that year, and the next month she resumed chemotherapy five days a week for four months. She’s been cancer-free for 15 years, but continues to go to the doctor for a colonoscopy every two years. May feels very passionate about the Relay for Life.

“I’ve definitely got to be there,” May said.

She started participating in 1999.

“I walk a little more every year. I’m on the Silver City Strollers Team.”

May also participated with Relay For Life in 2007 in her hometown of Columbus, Neb., for a very special reason. Her father, Keith Iwohn, died from colon cancer that year.

MARY RENZE

Renze’s battle began in September 2011.

“One day I got into the bank and I could hardly breathe by the time I got to my desk.” Renze said.

he left work that day at Glenwood State Bank to visit her primary care doctor, and ended up at the UNMC clinic in Plattsmouth. Following a chest X-ray, Renze was told, “you need to go to the emergency room … and you need to go now.” The doctors were unsure what was wrong, but nearly a week later, following several tests, Renze was told she had lung cancer. She was, and is, ineligible for surgery, so the doctors performed chemotherapy every three weeks from October 2011 until March of this year.

The chemotherapy stopped when a CT scan at the end of February revealed Renze has cancer cells on her liver that are changing. This cancer will always be with Renze, but she’s confident her oncologist is on top of every treatment possible. Renze is currently taking a protein inhibitor that is supposed to kill the protein going into the cancerous cells. At the end of July, the doctors will determine the treatment’s success. She’s very humbled to be a Relay for Life ambassador.

“It’s hard to put that in words,” Renze said. “I remember seeing the survivor walk and you never think ‘that’s going to be you.’ I’m very thankful to be alive.”

ROGER WYANT

Wyant found out he has cancer five months ago.

“My lights went off on Jan. 25 and I had a seizure,” Wyant said. He went to Mercy Hospital, where tests revealed a brain tumor on the left side of his brain.

Wyant had surgery Feb. 1 at Methodist Hospital, which was followed by six weeks (33 sessions) of chemotherapy and radiation at Immanuel Medical Center.

The chemotherapy has been stopped at this point – not because of an indication of success, but because of a different problem. On May 3, doctors discovered Wyant had a perforated bowel. He had surgery to repair the bowel and is currently recovering.

Recovery is expected to take three to six weeks. Doctors have not determined if the brain cancer and the bowel problem are connected. Wyant said his doctors have told him the brain tumor has been “pretty well eliminated,” but he will know more once he recovers. At that point, the doctors will perform an MRI.

Wyant has never participated in Relay for Life, as he is normally busy on his farm during this time of year. He isn’t quite sure what to think about it.

“Well it was quite an honor,” Wyant said. “I haven’t had time to digest it and what it all means. There’s a lot going on right now.”