Wyalusing Relay For Life Names Honorary Chair
Relay for Life of Wyalusing will hold its summer rally on the track of Wyalusing Valley High School from 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 11, to 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 12. The much-anticipated event is the culmination of a year of fundraising efforts by approximately 20 teams of cancer crusaders, and all money raised goes to the American Cancer Society (ACS) to assist in the development of treatments and an eventual cure for America’s number one cause of death.
This year, members of the Wyalusing Relay committee have selected founder Jan Bouse-Stoddard as their honorary chairperson. Jan is credited with starting the Wyalusing chapter of the national fundraising arm of ACS. She is a cancer survivor who, according to her supporters, has provided inspiration and motivation for others dealing with various forms of the disease.
“It does make a difference to have someone there who can help you,” Jan said of her own battle with cancer, which returned last year. “My journey has made me more aware of God’s mercy and Gods’ grace. My relationship with other cancer patients has become deeper.”
Jan’s association with people living with cancer began about 20 years ago, long before she discovered a tumor located in her underarm. She took part in a 12-step program sponsored by ACS, the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA), and the National Cosmetic Association called Look Good—Feel Better that was geared toward keeping up the spirits and appearances of people with cancer.
“As a hairdresser, I knew that we could help them with the side effects,” Jan related, in reference to hair and eyebrow loss through chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
When Jan was diagnosed in 2001 with Stage 2 cancer without a primary source, she found herself hearing her own words of advice and encouragement. In fact, Jan noted, it was her awareness of cancer through her early association of the group that led her to routine self-examination. The cancer was in her lymph nodes and was, by Jan’s description, “very minute at the time. It didn’t even look like it was cancer.” Due to a perception that her situation was not as serious as some, doctors opted for chemotherapy and radiation treatments for Jan instead of surgery. As she lost her own hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, her faith in God deepened.
“I never once said, ‘Why me?’” she recalled. “Instead, I thanked God that it was me and not someone else who I loved.”
This is actually the second time that Jan has served as an honorary Relay chairperson, having previously worked for Relay for Life of Towanda in 2002. During the course of her relationship with ACS, she had the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. to successfully lobby with fellow supporters for the Colorectal Screening Bill, which made it possible for people with a history of colorectal cancer in their families to get exams at 40 years of age, as opposed to the 50-year age limit set by insurance companies.
“Our voices made a difference in Washington,” Jan related with pride. Cancer awareness, prevention, and treatment became Jan’s passion. She started the Relay for Life of Wyalusing in 2004, relying mostly on her family to staff the key positions until the organization grew to include many families and supporters in the Wyalusing area. “It has grown tremendously,” Jan remarked.
“The whole reason for Relay is the hope to find a cure for cancer,” said Jan, who noted that she has seen a lot of changes through the years, while she has also lost dear friends. Jan underwent surgery to remove the tumor within 13 days of discovering it this past year. Since she is at a high-risk for return, Jan now also gets Herceptin injections. “They can’t really stop it,” she said of her cancer. “But, hopefully, they can keep it at bay.” The drug was available 10 years ago, she noted, but it was not yet fully tested. It is now used by as many as 95 percent of breast cancer victims now. The process involves a 52-week infusion, with few side effects.
Rather than dote on herself, Jan finds herself more concerned these days with melanoma, a form of skin cancer that is especially deadly because it is often too far advanced by the time it is found to be eradicated. She is hopeful that a New York University case study will advance the use of an experimental vaccine that has been shown to kill cancer cells in certain instances.
Relay for Life of Wyalusing public relations coordinator Ken Mapes explained that Jan was the overwhelming choice as this year’s chairperson out of gratitude for her founding of the chapter and because “she has never wanted credit for it,” a sentiment that Jan readily echoes.
“I do appreciate the honor, but there are so many other people I would like to honor,” Jan stated. She accepts the responsibility with grace, however, realizing that she is in a position to help others, who often stop her in public to ask questions. “I may not have the answer, but I can help them find the answers.”
As for the annual all-nighter at the high school, Jan said, “It’s so much fun. It’s solemn and very beautiful. It’ s a time for rejoicing and a time for weeping.” One of the most touching moments of the 24-hour rally for her is the luminaria ceremony, when bags with candles are lit around the track in memory of a lost loved one or in honor of a cancer survivor. Organizers also use luminaries to spell out the word HOPE in the bleachers. Even after an evening of heavy rain one year, Jan recalled, “There were still candles glowing in the morning. That’s our ray of hope.”
According to Mapes, Relay for Life of Wyalusing raised $67,011 in 2010, surpassing a goal of $54,000. The top three fundraising teams last year were Over the Hill from Spring Hill, Peoples helping People from Peoples State Bank, and Arrow United Walking United. There are 35 teams registered so far for this year’s event.
A survivor dinner is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday in the school cafeteria, Mapes noted, and the luminaria ceremony on Saturday will follow the survivor lap and celebration planned for 8 p.m.