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Relay for Life: Survivors Are Event’s ‘Heart’

July 19, 2008

By Jacqueline Lee, Belleville News-Democrat, Ill.

Jul. 19–BELLEVILLE — Betty Dumstorff, 78, has been a breast cancer survivor for 36 years and she has participated in every Relay for Life event in Belleville. Dumstorff said she decided not to walk in this year’s overnight fundraiser for the American Cancer Society because of her knee, but said she was still surrounded by friends, love and hope.

“I think it’s encouraging for people when they meet me,” Dumstorff said Friday night.

That is why Dumstorff has led a “Life After Breast Cancer” discussion group at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the past 28 years. The group meets the fourth Monday of each month in the Millenium Room at about 7:30 p.m.

Dumstorff said events such as the Relay for Life and the discussion group help raise awareness and encourages discussion.

“For example, it gets people more aware of the different ages of people who get cancer,” she said. “One of the gals in the support group had a 2-year-old granddaughter who was diagnosed. There’s no age limit.”

About 800 people participated in the Belleville relay, event organizers said, and about 120 of them are cancer survivors.

“Survivors are at the heart of our relay,” said event coordinator Becky Beckwith of the American Cancer Society. “They’re living proof that what we’re doing is making a difference.”

Beckwith said the relay at Belleville West High School was one of 14 relays in the metro-east this year, raising an estimated total of $1.5 million for the American Cancer Society.

Dumstorff said the event has raised awareness, support and much-needed money so that there are more options today than when she was diagnosed in 1972.

“Nobody talked about it,” said Dumstorff, who was diagnosed after her father and two grandparents died of cancer. “I had surgery, but I didn’t think I would live this long. It used to be if you made five years, you were lucky. Every year, there is more hope.”

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Belleville News-Democrat, Ill.

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