to cheer walkers in Relay for Life
On Saturday, Kay Dee Roehl celebrated what she called “my 45th trip around the sun.”
Starting at 6 p.m. Friday and ending at noon Saturday, the Auburn woman, who works in Human Resources at Boeing, will take some laps around the track at Auburn’s Memorial Stadium and cheer on a passel of others doing the same.
Roehl, a cancer survivor, knows that without fundraising events like the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in Auburn and the money that goes to research and other good things, she would not be alive.
“I think the biggest thing for me about being part of the Relay for Life is I have an opportunity to do something to fight back against cancer,” said Roehl, team development co-chair on the Relay for Life Committee. “I know that the money goes not only to research but to programs that help people who are battling cancer to deal with it.”
In July of 2004 Roehl, complaining of slight constipation, went to see her doctor for her annual physical. He sent her to a gastroenterologist who performed a colonoscopy. Her husband, Randy, was at her side when she got the news: the examination had discovered large, cancerous tumor. And it was stage 3.
“I was completely unprepared for that,” Roehl recalled. “It was such a scared and unreal feeling. It had never crossed my mind at all, first of all because I didn’t feel bad. I think that’s the toughest part – I didn’t feel bad.”
Three weeks later, she began a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation to shrink the tumor. Surgeons removed it at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way three months later. She went in for chemotherapy every other week for four months after that at the Auburn Cancer Center under the care of Dr. Nanette Robinson.
Everything looked good.
But last spring, tests showed the cancer had spread to her lungs. Treatment began again in April, ended in October and started again this week. The cancer is now stage 4.
Roehl has seen firsthand what the money raised can do. In 2004, she went to an event called Look Good Feel Better, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. It provides an opportunity for women with cancer to meet, get tips, even walk away with free wigs.
“As it turned out, I happened to run into the mother of one of my son’s friends who was battling breast cancer at the time,” Roehl said. “We reconnected at the event, planned our treatments on the same days and did things to hang out together throughout the treatments.
“We bonded in a very special way. That all comes from moneys raised through the relay and makes that piece of it so special,” Roehl said.
This year Roehl will do double duty at the Relay. Not only will she and her co-chair walk around, greet all the teams and make sure everybody has what they need, she’ll also cheer on her own walking team, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Her son Jason, 13, is team co-captain with pal Max Marchand. Daughter Jill, 11, is also a member.
“My kids were on my relay team last year and decided to have their own relay team this year,” Roehl said. “So there are 17 of them, including their friends. It gives them a way to be constructive about all this, too. The hardest thing has probably been to watch them deal with me as I deal with cancer. This gives them something to do, and gives them a way to channel those energies.”
Despite the return of her cancer, Roehl is optimistic.
“We are hoping stage 4 is not an automatic death sentence,” Roehl said. “We’re hoping that, if nothing else, raising money buys me some time. It’s important to celebrate all those trips around the sun.”