By Marci Narum
The first time Jan Lund went to a Relay for Life event in Bismarck, her daughter had to drag her to it. It was 2008, and one year since Jan’s own diagnosis and survivorship of inflammatory breast cancer.
“I thought this isn’t something I would enjoy,” Jan says. “Oh my God, I loved it.”
Jan fights back tears as she remembers that first Relay for Life.
“I could just see at relay how they rally around the newly diagnosed. It’s just amazing. And they provide support for the caregivers.”
No one needs to drag Jan to Relay for Life these days. She has been on the committee since 2009 and is now the chair of the event.
Relay for the Life is an American Cancer Society event that happens in communities around the world. Jan says the money raised at the local event is pooled, and a committee of experts will review grant applications. She says a lot of the money does stay in North Dakota, to help cancer patients with travel, lodging, wigs, and self-care programs. But she says to expect all of it to stay here is not realistic.
“Is a cure for cancer to be found in Bismarck? No, it needs to be pooled. The research dollars certainly help people in Bismarck. I’m sure that’s how my oncologist knew which drugs to give me. They don’t just dream that up. It comes from research and case studies.”
And she adds, the number of cancer survivors grows every year, thanks to drugs that are developed through research.
“At relay every year people chant, ‘We want a cure! But if people realized how close we are getting every day every year it’s amazing. There are people living with pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer…and there are now survivors. The cancer I had, had a 40% survivor rate. It will be nine years in June and I’m still here.”
2016 is the 24th year of Relay for Life in Bismarck, and Jan says the local community has been so supportive, helping the event reach “Mega” status. That means it nets over $200 thousand dollars.
“We’ve grown from probably five teams at Relay, to the highest of 70 teams one year. We have about 40 teams registered so far this year.”
Jan says the committee’s goal is to get past that 200 thousand dollar benchmark again this year.
It used to be that Relay for Life was a 24-hour event, but that’s changing this year. The event starts at Noon on Saturday, June 11th and teams will walk through Midnight. There is a ‘round the clock schedule of events planned, including entertainment by Elvis, a selfie station, shoe decorating competition, butterfly release, and luminaria ceremony.
There is still time to put together a team, raise money, or individuals can participate. Click here to register a team, or call the American Cancer Society in Bismarck at 250-1022. You can also contact Jan Lund; call or text her: 426-9362
Note: The committee also is looking for youth, adult, and caregiver ambassadors for future Relay for Life events.