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> Susan G. Komen Twin Cities Race for the Cure® > Komen Race for the Cure® > Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure® > Brainerd Lakes- Honorary Chairs
Brainerd Lakes- Honorary Chairs
Honorary Chairs 2017- Emily Lanin and Dr. Troy Duininck
Our Honorary Survivor Chair for the 2017 Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure is Toni Bieser.
Photo and story coming soon.
Our Honorary Race Chairs for the 2017 Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure are Warren and Jonathan Brauer.
Photo and story coming soon.
Honorary Chairs 2016- Emily Lanin and Dr. Troy Duininck
Our Honorary Survivor Chair for the 2016 Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure is Emily Lanin.
Emily Lanin of Brainerd, was chosen by the Race Committee to be the 2016 Komen Brainerd Lakes Honorary Survivor Chair. It will mark her 30 years since her breast cancer was diagnosed. Her story follows.
In the spring of 1986, I noticed a small dimple on the lower part of my right breast. Since I had an upcoming physical and mammogram, they would be sure to note if it was of any significance. The doctor made no comment at the physical exam and I had forgotten to mention the dimple. The subsequent mammogram also came back 'normal' so I didn't worry about it after that. Wrong!
Forward to November, while driving my car I noticed some discomfort under my right arm and thought the bulky seam of my Irish fisherman sweater was causing it. However, in poking around to rearrange the sweater, I discovered that the 'bulk' was not in the sweater, it was under my arm. I made a doctor appointment the next day. Again, two doctors poked and prodded under the arm, but no one commented on the dimple. A biopsy was scheduled along with the pre-op exam with the surgeon. Once more the exam, this time by the surgeon, was done while I was laying down; the dimple didn't show; and again I failed to point it out.
Of course the surgery came back showing two lymph nodes containing cancerous cells. Tissue was sent to the University of MN for analysis and two long weeks later the surgeon explained that because the cancer was determined to be hormone positive it would most likely come from breast or ovaries. Finally, I thought to point out the dimple and she was mortified that she hadn't seen it before. Another mammogram still didn't show any mass, but a mastectomy was scheduled anyway and sure enough, a two centimeter tumor was lying right below that dimple. I was designated at Stage II. I was pre-menopausal and the breast tissue was very dense, thus the tumor didn't show up on either mammogram.
My husband attended the meeting with the oncologist and heard him tell us that my chance of survival was 30%. I wasn't sure I would be around for Christmas which was only a couple of weeks away. My youngest sister volunteered to finish my shopping, and after the holidays, she drove me to my first few chemo appointments. By this time, I had decided I wasn't going to expire anytime soon, and was determined to go on with life as normally as I could. After all, I had survived a kidney tumor two years before which was totally encapsulated so it didn't require chemotherapy. Fortunately, my oncologist decided to use an older regimen of chemo with consisted of two weeks on and two weeks off of Cytoxin, 5FU, Methotrexate and Prednisone. I didn't lose my hair, but I swear the gray ones didn't come back for a few years after that. For that entire year of 1987, I was able to go to my office job, and do other fairly normal activities. Thanks to the prednisone, I did gain weight, and looked like a chipmunk by December. I never got sick, but my stomach felt like it was holding a lead ball. Ice cream made it feel better - might have had something to do with the weight gain.
The next spring, I decided on a prophylactic mastectomy on the other side for a couple of reasons. The oncologist had indicated I had a 75% chance of getting cancer on that side and I was rather large-breasted, making a matching prosthesis difficult to achieve. In those days, there was no such thing as a 'nurse navigator' so I was on my own to search out a plastic surgeon. I opted for the quickest choice, a surgeon who had a relationship with Group Health, but his specialty was really hand surgery. Against his preference, I insisted my original surgeon do the mastectomy, and he do the reconstruction. Silicone implants were inserted behind the chest muscles without any of the slow expansion procedures that were done in later years. That made for very tight chest muscles for several years. He also cut a nerve on one side, so there is a slack muscle on the lower part of that breast and below my left arm. None of that shows under clothing, but it's a reminder to alert others to take their time and make educated choices about their reconstruction. There is so much more information available now, largely thanks to the Susan G. Komen organization and the nurse navigators who support patients through the maze of decisions that need to be made during such a stressful time.
My husband and I were both able to take early retirement in 1997 and then moved from Hopkins to our Camp Lake home southeast of Brainerd. He had founded the MN Distance Running Assoc. in the 1960's and we had put on many running races over the years. I was the one with the clipboard and stopwatch at the finish line for most of those events, while he ran or coached. He had coached cross country running, cross country skiing and track while teaching in the Hopkins, MN schools for nearly 30 years. Fast forward to the year 1999. At our Camp Lake residence, we got several faxes asking him to help get a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure organized. He declined but I joined the fledgling Race Committee. I felt since I was lucky enough to have survived for 14 years I should try to give back. Plus, I had a lot of experience in organizing running races. I have been deeply involved in the Brainerd Lakes Race ever since in various capacities. The rewards are tremendous. I know our efforts have saved lives in the Brainerd lakes area by educating women to get checked, helping provide access to mammograms to the under insured, and helping our local hospitals to get grants for their breast cancer programs.
I strongly believe that the Susan G. Komen organization has had a lot to do with the progress made in breast cancer survival since their inception in 1982, both through local programs and research grants. Survival, especially with early detection, has gone from about 65% to 98% during those years. I am very proud to be doing my small part.
Our Honorary Race Chair for the 2016 Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure is Dr. Troy Duininck.
Dr. Troy Duininck is a general surgeon at Essentia Health in Brainerd where he has been practicing surgery for the past 11 years. He trained in surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Although he has a broad general surgery practice he has a special interest in the care and treatment of patients with breast cancer. He is a member of the American Society of Breast Surgeons. He formerly served on the board of directors of the Brainerd Lakes Komen chapter. He currently serves on the cancer committee at Essentia Health – St. Joseph’s Medical Center, an award winning Cancer Center accredited by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Cancer. He also is the current chair of the breast committee and led the initial accreditation of the breast center by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, the fourth program to attain this accreditation in the state of Minnesota. He enjoys working with an incredible group of physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses and staff at St. Joseph’s Medical Center.
Honorary Chairs 2015- Rosalind Haapajoki and Nancy Cross
Our Honorary Survivor Chair for the 2015 Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure is Rosalind Haapajoki.
Rosalind 'ROZ' Haapajoki is a resident of Baxter, MN. The following is the story of her experience with breast cancer:
I am a Mother, Grandmother, Sister, Aunt, friend, and a Financial Advisor. I have always been a care giver at home, in my family, and at work.
I lost my husband to cancer in 1999, my Mom in 2000 and in 2002 I decided it was time to take care of myself. I had scheduled an appointment with my Dr and also set up a mammogram. Before I got in to see my Dr., I found a large lump, the size of an egg, on my right breast. I called my Dr. and he set up an appointment and a mammogram the next day. The following day I had a biopsy. I will never forget the call I got that said I had cancer. An hour later my family and I were meeting with a surgeon.
I had surgery on the day I was scheduled to have my original mammogram. I had a lumpectomy and had 23 lymph nodes removed. This was followed by chemo and radiation. The treatments were challenging, but I knew if I were to survive I needed to complete them.
Following my first breast cancer diagnosis, I had Dr. appointments every 6 months and a mammogram once a year. After 10 years, my oncologist advised me that I should only come in once a year as I had no sign of cancer. In my 12th year my mammogram came back with a questionable spot. I went in for an ultrasound and a biopsy. Once again I waited and then got the call that it was cancer. I was devastated. I thought I had whipped this!
This time I thought no more! I had a double bilateral mastectomy in September of 2014. I also had the RT-PCR test which tests for my probability of cancer recurring in my body. Unfortunately the test came back with a high recurrance score so chemo was my next step. I had four rounds of chemo, but I looked at this as a positive. Last time I had cancer I did not have this opportunity. This gives me a high percentage of not getting cancer again. Nothing is for sure, but I feel good about it.
I have three children, Eryk, Wade, and Amber. I have seven beautiful grandchildren and I want to be around to watch them grow up. We have to think positive or cancer wins.
My family, friends, and church have been so supportive and I couldn't have done it without them. That support was so important to me.
Race for The Cure is such a positive event and I am so humbled and honored to be The Honorary Survivor Chair in 2015.
Our Honorary Race Chair for the 2015 Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure is Nancy Cross.
We are very proud to name Nancy Cross our Honorary Race Chair for 2015. She was instrumental in the organization of the Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure® Committee in 1999 so that the first official Race could be held in 2000. As noted below, she has been a strong supporter of this cause from then on.
Nancy has been working in the non-profit arena for 23 years. As Director of Community Action, she has assisted hundreds of groups and organizations to become 501(C)3 non-profits, with fund raising, technical support, board creation, advertising and event coordination; and the list goes on. She believes that non-profits are the back-bone of any community. They serve children, young adults, seniors, the homeless, the hungry, the ill, and provide guidance, recreation and education to the community as a whole.
Nancy has been involved with the Race for the Cure in the Brainerd Lakes Area since the beginning. She has helped behind the scenes with anything from office support to advertising. If we need staging, sound system, tents, tables, copies or people to put pins together, Nancy has been able to come to our aid. "The Race for the Cure started with one person, fighting for her sister. It has grown to thousands fighting for a cure to Breast Cancer. I encourage everyone to run, walk, donate and speak up for those who are fighting this battle."
Although not directly impacted by breast cancer, Nancy is very much aware of the battle. Family and friends have won and some have lost the battle with cancer. With her sister recently diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer, Nancy's mantra is "No one fights alone". This Race has a huge impact on the "fight". The dollars raised are used in research and education to eradicate breast cancer in our life time. "I am honored and humbled to be this year's Honorary Race Chair. We can make a difference one race at a time, one donation at a time, one voice at a time - no one fights alone."
Honorary Chairs 2014- Kevin Maurer and Danny Wild
Our Honorary Survivor Chair for the 2014 Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure is Kevin Maurer.
His story: In March of 1997, on a visit to my physician for a knee problem, I asked him about a small mass in my left breast area which was at the sight of a previous injury. He indicated that it was scar tissue and it was nothing to worry about. I explained to him that there was something different and I requested he refer me to the local surgeon for a punch biopsy as a referral was required by my insurance company for them to pay for the procedure. He once again indicated that I didn't need to have it biopsied as it was just scar tissue. It was only when I insisted, did he make the referral. The result of the biopsy indicated Dermato-Fibro-Sarcoma Protuberans, a rare form of cancer that begins in the dermas and then sends fingers into the muscle, bone and then the vital organs. This form of cancer grows at the same rate as normal cells and therefore chemo-therapy has no effect. The sight of the cancer was over my heart, so radiation was not an option. The only way to address this kind of cancer, was through removal of the area where it began. In May, I had my first surgery at St. Gabriel's Hospital in Little Falls. The surgeon removed all of the area around the cancer and went down to the septa which is the sheath between the gat and muscle and covered the site with a skin graft from my left leg. What he didn't know at the time is that the septa had torn and retracted, exposing the muscle to the cancer. Several days later I received the biopsy results from Abbot Northwestern in Minneapolis. The recommendations were for me to have another surgery, as this kind of cancer has a frequent recurrence rate and when the surgeon did the surgery, he believed the septa would keep the cancer out of the muscle, which it didn't. Six weeks later I had my second surgery at Abbot Northwestern, in which they removed the muscle down to the carotid artery and covered it with a skin graft from my right leg. They were able to check the biopsy while I was in surgery to ensure the proper margins. I received CT Scans with contrast annually for 5 years and have had two surgeries to remove lumps near the site, the last of which was 10 years ago, all of which were benign.
I recently found out that my great uncle had both breasts removed due to cancer. I have been a Licensed Practical Nurse since 1978, and a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor since 1985. I believe that my medical and counseling background have played a significant role in my self-awareness and assertiveness, without which I don't believe I would be alive today. I believe that we are each our own best advocates, and need to always request a second opinion. I initially began running the Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure with my two children, Dustin and Shauna, when they were students at Pillager High School and on their cross country team. I have participated in the Race for several years now and will admit that the first several years it was difficult to acknowledge that I had cancer in my left chest area. My hope is that my speaking out will help other men become aware and pro-active in their health and wellness, and increase awareness that men can get cancer in their breast. Each day I am so very thankful that I have had the opportunity to watch my children grow to become the two wonderful young adults they are today.
Editors Note: Kevin was elected Morrison County Commissioner in the fall of 2013. He continues to provide private counseling and will speak publicly on breast cancer in men issues when requested. The last few years he can be seen in the group survivor pictures taken at the Race, wearing the grey survivor shirt given to men.
Our Honorary Chair for the 2014 Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure is Danny Wild.
Danny Wild is a 28 year radio veteran with a history in programming and on-air work in Fargo and the Brainerd Lakes. He is currently the Program Director for radio stations 1380 KLIZ the Fan, 1340 KVBR- Brainerd Business Radio and 107.5 KLIZ-FM the PowerLoon. He can be heard regularly on the Morning Show on The PowerLoon as host of the Loon Morning Crew.
Danny has been involved with the Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure as emcee for the annual event since its inception. He is proud to represent BL Broadcasting as a sponsor of the event and is honored to be selected as this year’s honorary chair. “I have been privileged to be a small part of such an impactful event over the past 15 years.” Danny looks forward to seeing everyone again at this year’s race and joining with those that fight this courageous battle.
Editor's Note: Danny has been the 'voice of the Race' since the first one was held in 2000. As Master of Ceremonies for the day, he keeps everything on schedule and lets the crowd know what's happening next. Whenever a Race official has been interviewed on his morning show, he displays a complete knowledge of the Komen message and importance of fundraising for our cause. Race officials have credited him with consistently bringing good weather for Race Day and look forward to another sunny day for the 15th Annual Race on June 28, 2014.
Honorary Chairs 2013- Kim Rhett and Bryan Jelinski
Our Honorary Chair for the 2013 Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure is Bryan Jelinski.
It is with a grateful and humble heart that I accept the Honorary Chair position for the 2013 Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure. My name is Bryan Jelinski; I live in Baxter and have been a resident of the Brainerd Lakes Area since 1985. I grew up in Little Falls, Minnesota and am the son of Willie and Betty Jelinski. I have worked in the grocery industry for the past 35 years; I am the Store Director at Brainerd Cub Foods and have worked for Steve and Ruth Quisberg (and family) since moving to Brainerd (which was then County Market). Brainerd and Baxter Cub Foods are proud to be locally owned and operated stores; your support of us helps us support many great events such as this.
I have been fortunate to work for a company that has supported the Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure shortly after it was formed 14 years ago along with many other charitable organizations right here in the Lakes Area. Over the years, Cub Foods has provided much of the food and water for the volunteers and racers on race day. Cub Foods has also been instrumental in the advertising campaign to get the word out to all of you so you can support this wonderful cause. Cub has printed and distributed tens of thousands of grocery bags each year with race information on them, as well as putting the message in our weekly ad. Cub has helped raise funds too; perhaps a cashier has asked you to give a dollar at check out…THANK YOU, because .75 cents of every dollar raised stays right here in Minnesota. This year, Cub Foods is proud to have jumped to the Presenting level of sponsorship because “WE LIVE HERE, WE RACE HERE, WE HELP SAVE LIVES HERE” in the Brainerd Lakes Area!
Unlike many of the previous Honorary Chairs, I have not directly been affected by breast cancer. For that, I am very grateful! However, my father was diagnosed with cancer some 15 years ago and he is doing remarkably well. Cancer has a way of touching all of us in one way or another. Breast cancer has touched our “Cub Family”. Ruth Quisberg was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2011. Today, because of the research that has taken place over the years, she is doing amazingly well in her recovery. As Honorary Chair, I honor her and all the other Cub employees that have been affected by breast cancer.
I believe that if you have a voice, HELP where you can! If you can walk or run, HELP where you can! If you have an extra dollar, HELP where you can! If you can encourage others, HELP where you can! Why? Because it is only a matter of time before cancer will affect you in some way, shape, or form. ONE VOICE can make a difference. I am proud of those that have stepped up to HELP over the years to fight breast cancer and to help find a cure. After all, this all started with ONE VOICE of a dying sister. Perhaps you have run or walked the race in honor of someone, raised money, encouraged someone suffering, or volunteered…ONE VOICE is all it takes to help find a cure.
I’m here to encourage all of you to continue to help find a cure for this disease. I am but ONE VOICE; look around to your friends and family and join me to be ONE MORE VOICE to help bring an end to breast cancer. Let’s honor those who have fought the fight and won, as we celebrate those who have lost their battle with breast cancer.
I am incredibly proud of Cub Foods and the other companies in the Brainerd Lakes Area for supporting the Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure. For you, the volunteers and participants too, who have supported this event in the past and in the future; may all of our involvement be a source of strength and encouragement for those affected. I pray that you and countless others will continue to be involved until a cure is found. Because, “ONE VOICE CAN, AND DOES, MAKE A DIFFERENCE”!
Our Honorary Survivor Chair for the 2013 Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure is Kim Rhett.
Growing up as a “military Air Force brat”, Kim Rhett learned early in life how to cope positively with change, adapt quickly to new situations and to just plain ol’ toughen up when life got challenging. These skills were further deepened as she herself served in the United States Navy where there she met the love of her life, Tom. He was a career Navy man himself and being a military wife placed Kim in a position of having to make many of the household and parental decisions while he served at his various stations. She was one strong lady, able to face life head on, until one life-changing moment stopped her in her tracks. At the young age of thirty-three, her first mammogram showed a lump and upon further testing, the biopsy diagnosed cancer. The weight of the news was nearly unbearable. But Kim knew what to do, adapt, adjust and deal with it. Through radiation and chemotherapy, she continued to raise her three beautiful children, Brian, Matthew and Kara. Month after month, year after year flew by. In fact, twelve years of new found freedom was enjoyed until the return of the cancer in 2005. Knowing that both of her grandmothers had breast cancer, Kim chose a mastectomy and endured chemotherapy once again. Just like her frequent moves as a child from Washington to Wisconsin, the cancer had been on its own trip the entire time. It had traveled to her brain, lungs and sternum where in 2012, Kim underwent a successful brain surgery and further radiation. With every dark cloud comes a silver lining for those who look for it and for Kim this has meant more travel where she’s always wanted to go, practicing open and authentic communication and living life to the fullest every single day. The Brainerd Lakes Area has been her home since 1992 and provided the stable home base for her in coping with cancer through exceptional medical care, resources and a supportive work environment at Bremer Bank. Her parents and children have witnessed her incredible strength and those who know and work with her are thankful for Kim Rhett. In her humble and positive demeanor, Kim is truly honored to serve as the Honorary Survivor Chair of the Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure. As they say in the military, Cancer free-Hoo-ah.
Honorary Chairs 2012- Jim Exsted and Viola Fjellman
Our Honorary Chair for the 2012 Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure is Jim Exsted, Police Chief of the Baxter Police Department.
Jim, 41, is no stranger to the disease of cancer. Jim initially became involved in the Relay for Life event back in 2004. Between he and his wife they had lost a total of five grandparents to various cancers in the years preceding and then the family received the diagnosis of lung cancer for Jim’s dad. Jim joined the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s team at that time and was a “convict” for several years in the jail and bail event. Jim’s dad lost his battle in late 2004.
Jim continued supporting the Relay for Life and it was during this time members of Jim’s family also began supporting “Team Sally” in the Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure. Jim, as Chief of Police with the Baxter Police Department also welcomed the race to their new venue at Forestview Middle School in his professional capacity. He and other officers were fortunate to work the event and witness the unbelievable compassion and outpouring of love that happens every year during this event.
In 2009, Jim and his family received the news of the diagnosis of breast cancer for his sister-in-law Deb Exsted. At that time “Team Exsted” was formed. The team has been one of the strongest family teams participating locally since that time. Jim found himself transitioning from a person who was supporting the event in an official professional manner to someone who now was deeply involved personally with a family loved one battling the disease.
The lines of professional courtesy for the event and personal involvement definitely crossed at this point but the underlying support never wavered. In fact, it grew. Jim found support at work to be both professional and personal. The membership drive for “Team Exsted” exploded with an outpouring of support of family, friends and co-workers.
“It always amazed me at how upbeat and emotionally charged both the Relay for Life and Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure were prior to my personal involvement through my sister-in-law. It was after Deb’s diagnosis that I learned not to fear cancer but to become courageous in thought and action when dealing with it. This realization was a direct result of my participation in both events. The positive energy that happens at the Race can only give a person hope and comfort.”
A local boy graduating from Crosby Ironton High School in 1989 and Bemidji State University in 1993, Jim continues to call the Brainerd Lakes Area home. He fills his spare time with boating, sports, coaching, family vacations, landscape projects, spending time outdoors and being a foster parent. He also supports the Step up to Downs and the Polar Plunge events.
Jim, his wife Trish and their daughters Madi and Sophie along with a huge extended family continue to support the Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure as volunteers, members of “Team Exsted” and through the City of Baxter and the Baxter Police Department. “I am so honored to have been chosen as the Honorary Chair for this year’s race. I believe that through the unified efforts of all involved in the Race for the Cure events that a difference can be made in the efforts to fight breast cancer.
Our Honorary Survivor Chair for the 2012 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is Viola Fjellman, a 62 year survivor.
Here is her story.
I am Viola Fjellman, 92 years young, born in Upsala, MN. I have been blessed with 4 children, grandmother of 12 and great grandmother of 29. My husband and I owned a home in Pine River, MN for about 10 years in the 80's. I currently live in Edina, MN.
I was first diagnosed with breast cancer on the right side the fall of 1950 and had a radical mastectomy. At that time our family lived in Glen Rock, NJ. Treatment then is not what it is today. My physician's office was out of his home. So after surgery my doctor had me do physical therapy for eight weeks in his office. I was able to drive to all my therapies appointments. In 1951 and 1957 I gave birth to my two daughters. I lost my left breast in 1997. Both times the cancer was self-contained. Once I healed from my surgery in 1997, I did not need any further treatment.
I have been involved with the Race for the Cure in Minneapolis for numerous years and have even had family run the race. I have to confess, I am too old to be running now!
I am the woman I am today because I have Christ at the center of my life, a wonderful family, friends and church. I leave you with one promise from my heart today... When trials intrude to slow down your life, it would be easy for you to give in. But by perseverance you'll overcome strife, so just keep on plodding -- with Christ you can win.
Honorary Chairs 2011- Bruce and Kathy Buxton
Our choices for this year's Honorary Race Chair and Honorary Survivor Chair are Bruce and Kathy Buxton. Both are well known in the community for their many philanthropic efforts, not the least of which is Susan G. Komen for the Cure. We are very thankful to them for all of their support and considerable efforts to promote awareness of breast cancer and to provide aid and comfort to those affected by it. Here is their story:
Fifteen years ago, a doctor said to me “I’m shocked. The tumor we found was cancerous. I thought it would be benign.” Cancer! Shocked was the word alright. Bruce, my husband of twenty-seven years was beside me. He turned to me, took me into his arms. “We’ll do this together. I want you to do whatever it takes to be with me.” We entered into the world of breast cancer.
Because of a family history of early deaths from cancer, with his encouragement, I chose to act aggressively and have bilateral mastectomy, though only one breast was cancerous. My doctor here in Brainerd was very supportive of the decision, so much so that he offered to perform the surgery on the second breast at no cost if our insurance would not reimburse. Together, we went to every doctor appointment, daily care of drainage tubes during healing, chemotherapy treatments and dealing with the side effects. We had the support of our family, friends, and community. Our sons were involved and kept informed of every decision we made. As I recovered from treatment, I realized how important that support was to me. My youngest son even shaved his head as I lost my hair and said, “Look Mom, bald is beautiful.” What happens to those who do not have that kind of support? We felt we needed to do something for others.
The past fifteen years, we have become advocates for breast cancer research, education of the public about cancer, education of women on the importance of early detection, and support of families going through treatment. Before Susan G. Komen for the Cure came to the Brainerd Lakes Area, we volunteered with the American Cancer Society and chaired the Relay for Life event. Working with hundreds of volunteers, together we were able to raise more than half a million dollars for research and help for those going through cancer. We still support the local Relay for Life and all the worthwhile efforts they make towards research and education about all kinds of cancer.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, no one talked about it, few people were aware of the numbers of women afflicted with the disease. We have made it a part of our mission to educate the public about breast cancer. Early detection has become the mantra as the best chance of survival. Susan G. Komen for the Cure strongly believes in educating women on the importance of early detection. Becoming involved in Susan G. Komen for the Cure was a natural fit for us. Since Susan G. Komen for the Cure came to the Brainerd Lakes Area, we have participated in local events; have hosted special teas to promote breast cancer awareness, raised money by having a luncheon and plant sale and a golf tournament. We actively participate through our support of the Survivor’s tent and the Survivor’s Luncheon to recognize the wonderful women who have fought breast cancer. We even took dance lessons and performed the waltz publicly as part of these events. Throughout all of this, we have learned many lessons we hope we can pass on to others. You must be an advocate for your own body so speak up, ask questions and demand answers. You are the same person, with or without cancer. You are not defined by whether or not you have your breasts or hair. Take time to tell your loved ones that you love them. Keep your sense of humor. It takes less energy to smile than to frown and you need your energy while going through treatment. Take every day as a gift. Cancer makes you more aware of your own mortality and teaches you to not take life for granted.
A lot of what we do is involved with breast cancer. I own A Woman’s Choice, where I provided and fit breast prosthetics and surgical bras for women who have had breast surgery. I volunteer to help with I can Cope, Reach for Recovery and many other cancer related activities. Together we work to educate families, raise money for research, and give hope to families that a good life follows treatment for cancer. Our latest effort is called the Pink Ribbon Cupboard. With the help of St. Joseph’s Foundation and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Pink Ribbon Cupboard fund was started to help families financially while going through breast cancer treatment. Many cannot work and need assistance that is not available through other sources.
We do enjoy other things as well. We still enjoy dancing and continue to take lessons, I am involved in PEO, an organization that helps women get an education, I sit on a committee at Essentia Health, and I enjoy playing bridge and golf. Bruce has been a principal and CEO/Chairman of the Board of Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates, has or is involved with the Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce, Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation (BLAEDC), and other community organizations since we moved to Brainerd more than thirty years ago. He enjoys bridge, golf, hunting and fishing as well. Much of our enjoyment has been watching our sons grow up, get educated, marry wonderful women and raise their families. Obviously, our grandchildren – Carson, Griffin, Elizabeth, and Samantha are the apple of our eyes and we spend as much time as we can with them. Being Grandparents is Grand!
Honorary Chairs 2010- John and Sally Ward
This year’s Honorary Chair and Honorary Survivor Chair are John and Sally Ward of Brainerd. For the past six years, Sal’s Team Hope has been one of the strongest teams at the Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure®. They are great examples of spirit and hope for many other breast cancer survivors and they are committed to support the Komen mission to find the cures. Both are educators; John has retired to serve as a Brainerd representative in the Minnesota state legislature. We are grateful to have these two most vibrant people as our honorary chairs for 2011.
Sally’s story: Lucky or Blessed?
I remember the day June 6, 2003, in vivid detail. As I sat in the doctor’s examining room with my husband, I was speechless as I heard the words “ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)”. I did not understand all of the words, but I was well aware of the meaning of “carcinoma”. It was the word no one ever wants to hear his or her doctor saying. The doctor proceeded to say that I was one of the lucky ones. I would have to take his word on that, because right then I did not feel so lucky.
I had just had surgery the previous week to remove a papillloma that was discovered after having experienced a discharge from my breast. I had been told by my doctor not to worry, because most papillomas are benign. Removing it was a precautionary measure that I needed to take. I had in fact not worried about it. After all, I had none of the risk factors for breast cancer. I had just had a clear mammogram 3 months earlier. As it turned out, the papilloma was benign, but cancer cells were discovered beside it. The cancer diagnosis presented me with options for treatment and making that decision was a personal journey in itself. After many sleepless nights, research, and conversations with myself, I had to come to the decision that I felt was best for me. I felt God answered my prayer for guidance and when I made the decision to have a mastectomy, a peace came over me.
It turned out the doctor was right. I was a lucky one. Due to the early detection of my breast cancer and decision to have a mastectomy, I did not need to have any further treatment because the cancer had not spread. It may have been luck, but I prefer to think that I was blessed! I was also blessed with great support from family and friends.
It seems that everyone has been touched by cancer in some way. Everyone’s story is unique and it continually amazes me how strong and kind human beings are in difficult times. One survivor friend told me that she thanks God every day for her breast cancer. At the time I thought, “Wow, will I ever be at that point? I am grateful to say that, yes; I am now at that point in my journey. Having a health crisis of any sort helps a person set priorities and appreciate the good things in life.
For the past 6 years I have been a team caption of “Sal’s Team Hope” for the Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure. Through all the great continual support surrounding me from family and friends, in 2008 our team won the prize for the largest Family and Friends Team. I support the race because I am a firm believer in early detection. Thanks to the monies raised at the local Komen race, any woman in the area is able to have a free mammogram. I want all women with breast cancer to be able to hear their doctors telling them that they are one of the lucky ones because their cancer was found early.
Many of us take things for granted in our lives. Our physical health is one of those areas in which this is true. With one word, our whole world can be thrown into a topsy-turvy situation. CANCER is one of those words. I remember my wife, Sally, telling me she had some signs that the school nurse said she may want to have her doctor check out. Some initial visits to the doctor left both of us feeling “calmed” as the doctor felt this was not a major health concern. Even after the early tests results, the doctor was feeling good about this being not being a major health situation. The tests results came back, and the doctor called us into “talk about the results”. When he said, “Please sit down, we need to talk.” My heart sunk to my feet. When he told my wife the tests indicated that she had breast cancer, I remember immediately thinking, “Am I going to lose my love, my rock, my sweetheart, my best friend? Please Lord, don’t let that happen.” The doctor told Sally that she was “lucky” as we caught the cancer very early. Funny neither of us felt “lucky” at that point. After the initial shock and my feelings of fear, alarm and anger, Sally went into a fight and conquer mode. Sal had a huge level of support and love from family and friends. Sal’s brother, a doctor, was also a huge help to us. Sal became an “expert” on breast cancer and treatments as she used every piece of knowledge she could gather to come up with the “right” choice of treatment for her. She really battled with making her choice. While we all supported and helped her in the best way we could, I witnessed her sleepless nights and anxiety filled days take a toll on her. We all knew the decision of what to do had to be hers, but she struggled with making that decision. I would support her on whatever she decided. I kept thinking of the biblical scripture, “God will never give you more than you can handle”. This verse had helped me through some difficult times in my life. At the same time, I truly wondered if Sally was going to get through this. Her strong faith in the Lord helped her. When she “Let go and let God”, she was able to make a decision. It brought a clam over her that was almost joyful.
That was six years ago and I have watched my wife serve as a strong, emotional, physical and spiritual support for many women who have also been diagnosed with cancer. She has been a captain of her own team in the Komen Lakes Area Race for the Cure for the past six years. She has also participated at the Relay for Life event. Our family is proud of her and marvels at the beautiful, caring and God loving person she is. She continues to be my rock and my best friend.
Honorary Chairs 2009- Al and Mary Lindner
The Honorary Chair and Honorary Survivor Chair for 2009 are Al and Mary Lindner of Brainerd who have supported the Race since its inception. Mary Lindner is being honored for her personal perseverance against breast cancer and her dedication to raising breast cancer awareness. Al is being honored for his steadfast support during Mary’s difficult times and continued support of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.
Mary says, “All of us have challenges as we go through life. The question is how do we deal with them? The immediate crisis always seems to be the most overwhelming. In 1997, my mammogram came back questionable. The doctor recommended surgery in four days. Each time I saw him I would say, “I’m expecting a good report!” To this day, I continue saying this for every appointment or test. “ This positive attitude along with a very strong faith, prepared her for a subsequent medical challenge.
In 2001, Mary needed a mitral heart valve replacement due to damage from rheumatic fever she had suffered as a child. An unrecognized allergy to heparin caused an anticipated 5 day stay to lengthen to over three weeks to change and adjust her medications and another three months recovery at home. Her previous bout with breast cancer taught her well to never give up and never quit until you win.
Mary’s advice: “Keep happy and positive, these are life-sustaining actions that you do on purpose. Also I laughed a lot, just to laugh. It is so good for you. It is a choice to be positive or negative; to fight or just sit back. It’s worth the fight and to surround yourself with people that carry that same value.” Through it all, Mary was strengthened by her deep faith and the support of family and friends. She wears her pink "Sharing the Promise" wristband daily, as a reminder of her own victory and also for support for those yet in the fight. She is always looking for someone to encourage and give a hug to and remind them to keep their joy.
As the honorary team member, Mary has been outfitted with New Balance Lace Up for the Cure® shoes and apparel. She joins other individuals at more than 100 locations around the country, hosting the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® in 2009.
Al says, "When I heard the "C" word I had to deal with some doubt and fear. You need to believe for total victory for your loved one. I'll never forget what I heard years ago, "Fear knocked at the door, Faith answered and found no one there." I think about this often. All of us have been impacted by friends and family who have had cancer. We continue to make progress and GET THE VICTORY through everyone's support of the Susan G. Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure. Together we WILL make a difference."
Al and Mary continue promote breast cancer awareness through their Lindner’s Angling Edge website, www.anglingedge.com, by the pink ribbon on their son’s fishing boat used in fishing contests around the country, and comments on their fishing shows broadcast on the Versus channel. Lindner Media Productions specializes in producing educational fishing programs, DVDs, videos, national TV commercials, product sales videos, point of purchase videos as well as providing underwater photography to the sport fishing industry. Al, Ron, James, Daniel and Bill Lindner are the creative forces behind Lindner Media and their award winning productions.