As the local Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society approaches Pat Rannow gets more and more excited.
Slated for June 26-27 at Tahoma Junior High, the event serves Covington, Maple Valley and Black Diamond. Organizers would like to raise $67,000 and hope to have 26 teams walking around the track at the school.
Pat Rannow will be there walking, both during the event and the survivors lap, when she will be accompanied by her husband Arvid.
Both are cancer survivors so the relay has become particularly personal for them.
This past year has been rough for both of them as Pat was diagnosed with breast cancer during a routine doctor’s visit while Arvid found out last summer he had prostate cancer at his annual physical.
“I went to the doctor in July and had surgery in September,” Arvid said. “The word cancer is scary because I’ve got a brain tumor. That’s the first thing they told me but thank God it wasn’t.”
Next on his mind was his father who died from cancer and the idea that it might take his life, too.
But he’s OK these days as the anniversary of his diagnosis approaches. At the last check up he was cancer free and Arvid said that was a relief.
Meanwhile, something suspicious popped up in Pat’s annual mammogram, but she “wasn’t too concerned because they’d done that before and it was a shadow.”
“Then they wanted to do an ultrasound and they wanted to do a biopsy and by then I knew it was cancer,” she said. “I had a lumpectomy. I went through chemo and now I’m going through radiation.”
Reaction to chemo treatments vary from person to person, Pat said, but is was a rough go for her.
“Chemo is hell,” Arvid said.
One day she was visiting with family and she started pulling her hair out in clumps. Pat said it didn’t hurt a bit but it was freaky for her family to watch.
She figured it was time to shave her head.
“That was the hardest thing to do was the first cut,” Arvid said. “After that it was fine.”
These days Pat covers up her head with pink handkerchief as her “five o’clock shadow” starts to come in as her hair is growing back.
During this time she’s been coping with cancer, Pat helped found a support group for ladies called the Covington Cancer Support Group, which meets the second and last Tuesday of the month at Covington MultiCare.
Pat had gotten to know Shelly Donaldson, a nurse at the Covington MultiCare, and she mentioned to Donaldson that she was going to start going to a group at Valley Medical Center in Renton.
“She told me there wasn’t a support group in this area so we decided we were going to start our own at MultiCare,” Pat said. “It’s been very successful. It’s been very rewarding to getting know the people through the support group.”
There are seven members in the group thus far but Pat would happily welcome any other women who want to join.
“It has helped so many people,” Pat said. “It has helped me. I wouldn’t give up my support group unless I was sick.”
Through her involvement at MultiCare, Pat asked Donaldson if there was anything she could do to help with the Relay, and like any good organizer Donaldson suggested she join a team.
Arvid recently had kneecap replacement surgery, so he can’t do the full event, but he has helped in his way by making caps for Relay teams.
Pat has raised more than $600 so far through a raffle she did and she’s looking forward to the Relay as part of Donaldson’s team.
“We’ve gone out and bought a tent and sleeping bags,” she said. “I have a girlfriend who went and got t-shirts made and put mine and Arvid’s picture on them for the relay. It should be a lot of fun.”
This has become a passion for Pat who said the Relay is important because it raises money for cancer research.
She encourages people to participate in the Relay so that “they’re grandkids won’t have to go through what I went through.”
Or what their son went through 14 years ago when his wife died.
“Our daughter in law died of breast cancer and if they didn’t catch mine I’d probably be in the same boat as her,” Pat said. “They’ve come such a long ways and they’re going to go further and further. I believe one day, probably not in my lifetime, there’s going to be a cure and they need money. That’s the bottom line.”
It’s all about perspective for Pat and that without her husband and a healthy sense of humor it would’ve been that much more challenging.
“We’ve been through hell in the last year and in July will be the one year anniversary as well as the end of my radiation,” she said. “So we can just thank God that we are sitting here laughing and talking about it.”
Break out box
For information about the Covington/Maple Valley/Black Diamond Relay For Life, log on to www.triorelay.org. Sign up your team, volunteer, or learn more about the event.
Opening ceremony for the Relay is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, June 26, while the luminaria ceremony to celebrate survivors while remembering those who have lost the battle will be at 10 on Friday night.
For general information about Relay For Life, log on to www.relayforlife.org.