Survivor encourages community to fight cancer

Survivor encourages community to fight cancer What's it like to be 8 years old and have cancer? Philip Munkvold, now a Vermillion teenager, remembers it as "no big deal."

On Feb. 20, 14-year-old Philip will join U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson and other area cancer survivors to lead the way for the Finish Line, the annual fundraiser for the Clay County American Cancer Society. The event is noon to 6 p.m. at the DakotaDome and all are invited. Donation is $10.

Philip is excited to have a role in the event and encourages the community to participate.

Six years ago, life was a lot different for Philip. The 8-year-old was getting ready to go roller skating for his birthday, but told his Mom his leg hurt so much, he didn't think he could go. He did eventually go skating, but the pain didn't go away. He went to a doctor here, and then on to another examination in Sioux Falls, where the doctor told his parents the pain was being caused by a tumor.

They were stunned. "He told us it was a tumor and walked out of the room and we just asked the nurse 'what did he say?'" said Philip's Mom, Jane Munkvold. "The doctor had walked out to make an appointment for us in Rochester (at the Mayo Clinic)."

"The hardest part was telling Philip," Jane said.

But when they told him, Philip recalls, "I just thought it was no big deal." Said his Mom, "You just can't explain it to an 8-year-old."

Philip's "no big deal" soon became a tedious and sometimes painful process of X-rays, tests, surgery and chemotherapy. At the Mayo, doctors at first thought Philip had bone cancer. Everyone was relieved after surgery indicated the tumors were in the lymph system, wrapped around his leg.

In March 1999, Philip was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"They told us if you have to have a cancer, this is the one to have," Jane said, "because the cure rate is so high."

He started six months of chemo right after surgery in March 1999. The cancer went into remission after chemotherapy. The family had a big scare late that year when more tumors showed up, but, thankfully, they were benign.

Losing all his hair was "kind of cool," Philip said. At first he wore a cap to school, but then just accepted his new look. The best part of the whole experience was going to Disney World, through the Make A Wish Foundation in 2000. His doctor declared the cancer "cured" in 2003.

Today, Philip is a normal teen-ager. He plays sports, enjoys school activities and makes good grades. The eighth-grader just got his learner's permit and his dad, Monty, says Philip is doing well learning to drive.

And for the future? Right now, Philip is thinking about becoming a doctor, "maybe an oncologist," he said.

This year, his sixth of cancer survival, Philip is looking forward to leading the survivors' victory walk around the track at the DakotaDome and meeting Sen. Johnson. To join the Survivors Victory Walk, call Joanne Tieman at 624-9558.

The Finish Line (formerly the Relay For Life) raises money for research, education and services for cancer patients and their families. The Finish Line is sponsored by community members, the USD "Planning Special Events" class of Dr. Patrick Wempe, and the Clay County American Cancer Society.

To participate in the Finish Line, community members can form teams and raise money from family, friends, neighbors � anyone who wants to contribute. The team fee is $10 per team member. Individuals can raise money and participate, too. The fee is $10 per person. Every person � team member or individual � who raises a total of $100 will get a T-shirt. To get more information on forming teams and raising funds, and to order your T-shirt ahead of time, call Janet Mount at 677-5214. Top fundraisers earn prizes donated by Vermillion and Clay County businesses.

Another way to raise funds and honor those who have battled cancer is to donate $5 for a luminaria. Luminarias are lighted paper bags that bear the name of someone who has survived cancer or someone who has died from cancer. The Finish Line will close with a reading of the names as everyone walks around the track.

To donate money for luminarias, you can stop by the Vermillion Federal Credit Union, 105 E. Cherry St. Luminarias can be purchased at the event, as well.

For the first time, the Finish Line will feature a raffle, tickets $2 each or three for $5. The prizes are a star quilt handmade and donated by Josette Lindahl and a dropleaf end table made and donated by Ron Lindahl. Tickets are available at the Credit Union.

Corporate sponsors are still needed. Those who donate $250 and more will be honored via Finish Line T-shirts, posters and publicity. Call Wess Pravecek at 677-6418 for more information. To date, media sponsors ($1,000) include the Broadcaster/Plain Talk and Mix 106.3 KVHT-FM. Major corporate sponsors ($500) include Clay County Abstract & Title Company and the Civic Council. Corporate sponsors ($250) are the Vermillion Federal Credit Union, Roy and Betsy Mortinsen and Rasmussen Motors.

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