Cheer on Survivors

RFL-WalMart Kickoff 09 071
Story of Survival
Published in The Missourian on 5/30/13
Written by By Karen Butterfield, Missourian Staff Writer

For Wendy Wildberger, who has been involved with the Relay For Life of Franklin County on and off since its beginning 18 years ago, the Relay is personal.

In 1990, at the age of 10, she was diagnosed with astrocytoma, a tumor in her spinal cord.

The tumor was removed surgically, but three years later, Wildberger relapsed. This time, she was treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Treatments lasted eight hours per day, two to three days per week.

In 2001, Wildberger was labeled “terminal” and told she didn’t have much longer to live. Because of nerve damage, she is paralyzed.

Her tumor eventually “settled” and hasn’t caused any further nerve damage, she said.

“I never really felt that I was terminal,” Wildberger said. “I was determined to prove the doctors wrong, and at 33, I’m still here. I have proved them wrong.”

Wildberger said that as a survivor, Relay is another opportunity to celebrate that she has beaten cancer.

This year also holds special meaning for her, since it’s the 100th birthday of the American Cancer Society.

Wildberger said she’s amazed at the advancements even just in treatment, as now, people can choose oral chemotherapy and spend much less time at the doctor’s office.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to it being the 18th year of Relay in Franklin County,” she said. “We have such a great community of survivors, caregivers and citizens who come out to support our cause.”

Wildberger reminds people that you don’t have to have cancer to attend the Relay.

“Anyone can cheer on a survivor,” she said.

More than 150 cancer survivors will walk around the track in unity [during the Survivors’ Lap].

“I can’t wait to see the full track of survivors,” Wildberger said. “It always gets me. It’s overwhelming to see all the purple shirts (survivors wear).”

This year’s longest cancer survivor [attending their event] is celebrating 47 years of survival. The newest person was just diagnosed a few weeks ago.

“Even if you’re not affected personally by cancer, as a community, we can support our survivors,” Wildberger said. “Pack the track and make some noise for them.”

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