A broken leg wasn’t going to keep cancer survivor Angela Freese from participating in the Million Dollar Marathon, so obviously there was no way the injury was going to stop her from participating in this year’s Relay for Life of Washington County Saturday.
Freese, for whom this year’s Relay was dedicated along with Genie Davis, gave the opening address shortly before noon. Freese is now going through her fourth round of metastatic endometrial cancer since being diagnosed in 2008. She said that the broken leg, for which she was wearing a cast during the opening speech, happened while whitewater rafting. The event was part of the Million Dollar Marathon.
“Every single day when I look in the mirror I see cancer,” Freese said. “It is part of my everyday life. I want it gone!”
She said eliminating cancer wouldn’t be easy. Freese held up a survivor shirt during her opening speech and showed the writing on the back. It said ‘Living Proof.’
“I am living proof that you can hear the words ‘you have cancer’ and you can fight,” she said. “All of you wearing a purple (survivor) shirt today are living proof we can continue to fight cancer until it is gone.”
She finished her speech by dividing the audience into two halves and having one half yell “Cancer!” The other half followed with the word “Sucks!”
The American Legion Riders and the American Legion Color Guard presented the opening ceremony.
Relay for Life, the signature fundraising event for the American Cancer Society, was held around Washington Square again this year. While there was a brush with a rainstorm shortly after the survivors’ lap, the events continued well into the night. In all, 18 teams had set up tents in Central Park and 95 survivors made the lap.
The goal this year was to raise $111,000, which would put the amount raised by Washington County at $1 million in the 13 years it has been held. American Cancer Society staff member and volunteer Kierstan Peck said that the goal hadn’t quite been reached yet. After the weekend, she said that $92,000 had been turned in and that some money from teams is still coming in.
“I think it is going to be close,” she said. “I think our teams are doing all they can to meet the goal.”
Teams have until Aug. 31 to turn in money that will be counted toward this year’s Relay. Peck also said that the event continues to be one of the top in Iowa and that a total of $92,000 was doing very well.
“If we don’t reach $1 million this year, we will get it next year,” she said.
Statistics have shown that the cancer rate has declined and the five-year survival rate with cancer has increased over 20 percent in the last 20 years through research and education. In the United States, there are over 14 million cancer survivors.