Stepping forward

Relay for Life participants lift up hopes with every step
by Jeff Pederson
of The Review staff


THE 22nd ANNUAL Relay for Life of Sheboygan County to benefit the American Cancer Society took place Friday at Zell Field in Sheboygan Falls. Participants walked the track for four hours to raise funds for the fight against cancer (below), led by banner-carrying cancer survivors (above). — Review photos by Jeff Pederson THE 22nd ANNUAL Relay for Life of Sheboygan County to benefit the American Cancer Society took place Friday at Zell Field in Sheboygan Falls. Participants walked the track for four hours to raise funds for the fight against cancer (below), led by banner-carrying cancer survivors (above). — Review photos by Jeff Pederson SHEBOYGAN FALLS — Steady rain showers had no chance of dampening the spirit of life, hope and remembrance displayed by cancer survivors, caregivers, family, friends and supporters at the 22nd annual Relay for Life of Sheboygan County to benefit the American Cancer Society Friday at Zell Field in Sheboygan Falls.

Relay of Life of Sheboygan County Chairperson Courtney Gutreuter delivered the welcoming message during the opening ceremony of the condensed one-night, four-hour event.

“Cancer is a destructive disease that often impacts those that we love,” Gutreuter said. “We can’t ignore it anymore. We need your help to fight this battle and give those dealing with the disease first-hand, that there is hope for a bright future.

“Cancer is the second-most common cause of death in the United States behind heart disease,” she said. “Nearly 1.7 million people will be newly diagnosed with cancer this year. Close to 500,000 will die due to the disease. Fighting cancer is a battle that is waged around the clock each and every day. By being here today, each of you is playing a key role in combating the disease by supporting the life-saving efforts of the American Cancer Society.”

Cancer survivor Leah Heusterberg delivered the main address, which touched on her battle with breast cancer.

“After I was diagnosed, I underwent a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery in 2013,” Heusterberg said. “Luckily, I have been cancer-free every since. My personal cancer story was pretty uneventful and not really that exciting, but my experience from 16 years ago with helping when someone I knew with three young children had cancer is more interesting to me.

“I knew I wanted to help her somehow and shortly after I saw an ad for the Susan B. Komen 3-Day for the Cure walk to support breast cancer research and patient support efforts,” she said. “I formed a team of four with three other women and we participated in the 60-mile walk event for five straight years. (We) raised a total of $50,000 for the Komen Foundation. It was an amazing experience and a life-changing journey for me.”

Heusterberg noted that she has continued with her fit and active lifestyle after her bout with cancer and subsequent surgeries.

“After undergoing numerous surgeries and treatments over a span of two years, I spent a lot of time getting to know my new body,” Heusterberg said. “I started attending the Survive, Thrive and Be Fit gentle yoga classes for cancer survivors offered through the Sheboygan County Cancer Care Fund.

“I found everyone involved to be warm and caring and I liked the fact that they have been in her shoes and I was able to share my experiences with them,” she said. “Over the past few years, I’ve done Thai Chi, disc golf, kayaking, as well as my favorite activities of backpacking and hiking. My message to anyone dealing with cancer is to give as much as you can to yourself and others, live your life the way you want to and don’t shut yourself off from others. I have been so blessed to have so many people by my side through it all. I can’t say ‘thank you’ to them enough.”

In addition to the inspiring message shared during the opening ceremony, the event included a special survivor’s lap, a survivor’s slideshow, a remembrance luminaria lighting and words of thanks and hope during the closing ceremony.

This was the first year that the event was modified from an all-night, two-day event into an Friday evening-only format.


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