Local, area cancer survivors chosen to lead Lap of Hope
Relay for Life kicks off Friday at Lake Helen
Three cancer survivors will lead the Lap of Hope at the 20th Annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Dawson County Friday at Lake Helen.These honorary chairpersons begin the survivors lap that leads all cancer survivors who are celebrating their victory over cancer.
This year’s honorary chairpersons are Karla Ricley and Jane Norseen of Gothenburg and Cynthia Fisher of Moorefield.
Walkin’ the ‘Planks’
Relay For Life Team captain
Karla Ricley knew something wasn’t right when she went to the doctor for her annual test for cervical cancer last year.
She was 51 years old.
When the test results came back and she heard the words “you have uterine cancer,” Ricely said she felt numb then cried.
“I couldn’t even ask the doctor any questions,” she said. “Thank goodness Randy (my husband) was there to do that for me.”
The Nebraska Salt & Grain Co. safety director also was dumbfounded.
“I thought it couldn’t be cancer,” Ricely said. “We have heart disease in my family, not cancer.”
Still, it wasn’t long before Ricley took charge over her cancer and wanted to know the next step.
She had a complete hysterectomy in June of 2013 at Methodist Hospital in Omaha and a month later, had her first chemotherapy treatment at Callahan Cancer Center in North Platte.
Family, friends and faith kept up her spirits.
“I went in with a positive attitude that everything would be okay,” Ricley said. “My family kept me going then and still keeps me going. Randy was a great caregiver and still is.”
Like many cancer survivors, cancer changed Ricely’s outlook. She has more empathy for others who are recently diagnosed.
“Not that I didn’t care before, but I actually know their feelings. I really do know what they are going through,” she said.
Ricely encourages newly diagnosed cancer patients to have a positive attitude and ask questions about their diagnosis and treatment options.
“Don’t be afraid to talk about your cancer and treatments when people ask. They really do care and want to know how you are,” she said. “And don’t be afraid to ask for help. People want to help in any way they can but don’t want to intrude.”
She also recommends taking someone along to doctor appointments because that person might hear things that can be missed. Writing notes helps for later reference, she said.
Ricely stepped up her fight against cancer this year by recruiting a Relay For Life family team called “Walkin’ the ‘Planks’” (Plank is her maiden name and her team is made up of her husband, her mom and her sisters.)
This is Ricely’s first Relay For Life and she said she’s honored to have been selected as an honorary chairperson.
“I am glad to think that I can help be part of the fight against cancer,” she said. “My team and I plan on having a lot of fun.”
‘Lucky 13’ years as a survivor
Jane Norseen of Gothenburg felt a lump in her breast 13 years ago and just knew.
She didn’t waste any time scheduling a mammogram which confirmed a diagnosis of breast cancer.
But it still left questions like, “How can this happen to me? What about all the things I have going on at the moment like my son’s graduation?”
Her son Jarred was about to graduate from Gothenburg High School and daughter, Jennifer, was a high school freshman.
Instead of dwelling on questions, Norseen made a commitment to living.
“I knew I had to keep a positive attitude not only for myself but for all those around me,” she said. “I knew I had to keep going and fight for my kids.”
Treatment began with surgery, a single mastectomy that was performed at Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney.
“I remember just getting back to my room after surgery and my daughter’s entire improv team came to visit me on their return from improv camp,” Norseen said.
Norseen underwent chemotherapy every three weeks for six months and then every week for 12 weeks. Radiation was also done every day for six weeks.
These days, at age 58 Norseen admits she doesn’t have as much energy as before. Because her cancer was a type of hormone receptor, she couldn’t take hormone therapy to help with such things as hot flashes.
She said she continues to keep up on different research and is fortunate enough to be part of a breast cancer study through the American Cancer Society.
Norseen encourages others diagnosed with cancer to keep a positive attitude, take care of themselves and let others help.
“Just remember that just because you have cancer doesn’t mean that you have to change everything about your life,” she said.
Last year, Norseen’s daughter organized the Peterson’s Supermarket Relay For Life team and Jane walked in the survivor lap.
“Relay is for a wonderful cause,” she said. “I appreciate that it represents all kinds of cancer awareness at one time.”
Chosen as one of the honorary chairpersons this year is a great honor, she said, since she is a 13-year cancer survivor.
“Also, it gives me a chance to represent my friends and family who have or whad cancer and honor those who are not with us anymore,” Norseen said.
‘Fighting For Fisher’ team member with Gothenburg Memorial Hospital
Living with cancer for the past five years has not kept Cynthia Fisher of Moorefield from doing what she wants to do.
“My first reaction was I’m in real trouble,” she said. “But later, I said I am not going to let cancer stop me.”
In 2009, Fisher was diagnosed with ovarian cancer after a routine check up. She had surgery to remove the tumor and cancer from her stomach wall and took several chemotherapy drugs over the next three years.
In 2013, doctors told Fisher she had leukemia and today she continues drug therapies in a continuing fight against cancer.
Faith and a lot of prayers have helped sustain Fisher.
“I have hope for a miracle,” she said. “All of the prayers and love of family and friends means so much...and a lot of laughter keeps me going. I take as many hugs as I can when I’m able.”
Fisher recommends finding someone to believe in and laughing and hugging a lot to anyone diagnosed with cancer.
“Unknown things can happen at a moment’s notice,” she said. “I enjoy the small things in life more and I enjoy God’s nature.
This will be Fisher’s first experience with Relay For Life. She works at Gothenburg Memorial Hospital where her co-workers have offered much support and encouragement. These same co-workers organized the “Fighting For Fisher” Relay For Life team in her honor.
“When I found out I was an honorary chairperson, it made me cry,” Fisher said. “I feel so honored to be part of this impressive organization.”
Even though Fisher had not been part of Relay before, she utilizes the American Cancer Society’s 24-hour hotline. Fisher also received a wig from the organization when she lost her hair and continues to read and enjoy the COPE magazine.
For more information about the survivor lap, contact Chris Barnes of Cozad at 308-784-4484. For more information about Relay For Life, contact event chairperson Pam Ackerman of Lexington at 308-324-2230.
For more information about cancer, call the American Cancer Society’s 24-hour help-line at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.