The Stephenson Volunteer Fire Department had a number of individuals who walked the 2017 Hope Memorial Relay 5k in their gear (Jessy White photo).
BY RICH PALZEWIC
Most of you reading this know I’m not really a runner. I’ve said it numerous times in the past – I do enough running to give my body a change from cycling and to run an occasional 5k, but one event I do participate in is very near and dear to me.
Almost 20 years ago – 18 to be exact – my mother Barb went to the doctor with inflammation in one of her breasts. The doctor treated her for an “infection,” and sent her on her way. Sometime later after the infection hadn’t disappeared, she went back and was finally diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. It’s a very rare form of cancer and tough to diagnose, simply because rarely do lumps appear.
She fought tooth and nail for five years trying to beat it with surgery, chemo and radiation. I was a school teacher at the time in Rhinelander and even used some sick leave to help care for her. I moved home to Wallace, Michigan, in April 2006 and stayed for the whole summer. At that time she was still in good spirits and feeling pretty good. From there I saw her go steadily downhill – battling bed sores, fatigue, nausea and finally not being able to walk anymore.
I remember one time we were going to pick up my niece from school and were walking together. The next minute she was gone from my side and lying on the ground. She was more embarrassed than anything. Another time we were outside working in the flower beds. When I came around the corner she was lying on the ground weeding. I jokingly said, “Your break is over!” She laughed at that one, but I realized it was a sign of things to come.
When hospice was ordered by the doctor, we moved a hospital bed right into the living room of the house. When she quit eating and drinking we knew the time was near. I said my goodbyes, and she passed away at 10:30 pm Aug. 17, 2006. A week later I was teaching school again.
Although I get emotional even writing this article, I knew it was her time and she was ready to go. I feel fortunate to have been with her when she took her last breath. My family became much closer that summer, as most of my sisters were able to help like I did.
Her death acted as motivation for us – mainly from my sister Kathy. She began organizing the “Barb Palzewic Hope Memorial Relay.” Kathy was living in California – but moving to Michigan after my mom’s death – at the time and one of my other sisters (Jan) drove with her home. She recently told me that the two began drumming up the idea of doing such an event and started planning it on the long drive home.
Although the event has evolved over the years, it’s still going strong. The 12th annual relay will be happening Sunday, June 10, in Stephenson, Michigan, which is about 20 miles north of Marinette/Menominee. I’m proud of my “Yooper” heritage.
All the proceeds from the event stay in the local area for cancer patients and their families. Although we can’t completely fund medical costs and things like that, we “pay” people with gift cards for gas and certificates for food. People going through difficulties just want to know people are caring for them and that’s our goal. If we can put a smile on their face we have accomplished what we set out to do. To date we have given out over $400,000 in our 12 years of existence.
The event features a 25-mile relay held on a 5k looped-course starting and ending at the Stephenson Sports Complex. It used to be a point-to-point course, but that was logistically hard to organize and man. We even have single runners tackle the whole course by themselves, but typically speaking, 2-8 runners make up a team.
There is food, music, raffles and a silent auction. Our organization is for non-profit, so all the funds go to a good cause after expenses are paid. Most food is donated and volunteers are a plenty. We’ve even grown so much in the area that many times when a person dies from cancer, the family requests that any donation goes to our organization. A lot of the local sports teams and area businesses donate, and do fundraisers, too.
A few years ago we added a 5k run/walk. We’ve had people solicit donations and raise $1,000 or more!
Our events are non-timed, small and pretty laid back. We want to keep costs down so we can give as much money back to the community. For a nominal fee of $25 participants get a medal, food, a t-shirt, a good time and a chance to brighten someone’s day.
A highlight of the event is how we put names of people currently battling or who have died from cancer on the course. Yes, it’s a lot of work for us, but we know participants appreciate that.
It would be nice to get a few “Silent Sports” teams together for the day, so if you’re interested in doing that, CLICK HERE for pledge forms, registration forms and more information.
Pledging/raising money isn’t mandatory to participate in the event, but it wouldn’t be discouraged!
If money is an issue we can work with that – we have businesses help by donating funds. It would give me a chance to meet some of you face-to-face and maybe – just maybe – you’ll get a picture in an upcoming issue!
You can also drop me a note at email@example.com; or if you have a group of people that would like to participate, get them together and come on up! Maybe you and your team would like to honor someone you know affected.