Step by step, local citizens battle cancer

Step by step, local citizens battle cancer
It's easy to have to be uncertain, especially about something as serious as cancer.

How can the simple act of walking to raise funds make a significant difference?

Anyone participating in the 2007 Clay County and USD American Cancer Society Relay for Life who were harboring such uncertainties had them quickly erased Friday.

The honorary chairperson of the 2007 Relay of Life, which was moved to Trinity Lutheran Church because of unseasonably cool weather conditions, is Jessica Larson, daughter of Mike and Sandy Larson.

Jessica was unable to attend Friday's opening ceremony. She is currently battling cancer, and was suffering from the after effects of a chemotherapy treatment she received the day before at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

"I think it is very significant for all of you to know that the treatment that she is receiving is the very latest that has been developed," Mike said. "It is made possible by people like you."

He paused for a few seconds, before adding, "I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Mike noted that for five years, Jessica took classes and earned a degree at The University of South Dakota. USD, he said, became a new home to her, and she is proud to be represented by so many USD and Vermillion residents at the Relay for Life.

Jessica was healthy all of her life, he said, but began to suffer health problems last August.

After extensive testing, during times when she was suffering extreme pain in her jaw, shoulder, back and hips, it was discovered she had cancer.

"The story turned horrible," Mike said. "Every doctor's appointment brought bad news and door after door seemed to be slamming shut."

The Larson family, however, received their first glimmer of hope last week, however, thanks to the state-of-the-art medical treatment Jessica is receiving.

"We've had our first positive news," Mike said. "Jessica has between two dozen and 30 tumors in her body right now, and this week, some of them have begun to shrink."

The Relay for Life was begun in 1985 in Tacoma, WA, and has spread to nearly 4,000 communities in the U.S. and eight foreign countries to raise funds for research, honor cancer survivors, and remember those who have died of the disease.

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