Nancy Rasmussen of Manawa became involved in Relay for Life a decade ago.
Each year, local businesses, churches and civic groups organize teams of volunteers who spend an entire night walking around a track to raise awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society.
“My mother had cancer and our church had a team,” Rasmussen said. “I started going to it with my sister.”
In October 2009, Nancy’s husband, Wally Rasmussen learned he had cancer.
“All of the sudden, I just started bleeding,” Wally said. “They tried to do a colonoscopy and found a major tumor.”
Over the next several months, Rasmussen would undergo an ileostomy and begin wearing a bag connected to his intestine.
“They removed almost 14 inches of my colon,” Rasmussen said.
In January 2010, Rasmussen began chemotherapy.
For six months, he went to Riverside Medical Center in Waupaca where he received treatment provided by the Martha Siekman Cancer Center from Appleton.
Rasmussen spent four hours receiving treatment at RMC every other week for six months.
“They also gave me a little pump that I took home with me,” Rasmussen said. “It gave me drugs for the next 46 hours.”
During this time, Rasmussen continued working at Waupaca Foundry, where he has been employed since 1977.
“The people at the foundry were incredible,” Nancy said, noting they have been helpful and supportive.
She also noted that without the foundry’s health insurance, the Rasmussens would not have been able to afford the cancer treatments.
His chemotherapy cost a total of $120,000 during the first six months of treatment.
“I’d rather have chemo any day of the week versus having to deal with the insurance companies,” Wally said.
“You have to play the game with them because cancer treatment is very expensive,” Nancy added. “That’s where the foundry has been very helpful.”
After six months of chemo, Wally learned he was cancer free. But a scan in October 2010 revealed the cancer had spread from his abdominal cavity to his lymph nodes.
Wally began receiving chemo treatments again. However, he developed an allergic reaction to some of the harsh drugs.
“I thought I was having a heart attack,” Wally said.
The treatments have been modified and the Rasmussens remain hopeful.
In addition to being employed at the foundry, Wally is also the assistant fire chief in Manawa.
For the past two years, he and several other volunteer firefighters have organized a team of walkers for the Relay for Life in Waupaca.
Last year, the Manawa team wore T-shirts saying, “Walking for Wally.”
The team was organized before Rasmussen was diagnosed with cancer.
“Chief Mark Levezow is also a cancer survivor,” Wally said.
Nancy said the American Cancer Society has provided support and help throughout this ordeal.
“The really impressive thing about the American Cancer Society is the amount of money that goes into research and goes to help people in the local community,” Nancy said.
She encourages people to participate in Relay for Life, scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Friday, June 21, at Haberkorn Field in Waupaca.
The kick-off meeting for volunteers will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26, in the Community Room at Waupaca High School.
For more information about Relay for Life, visit www.RelayForLife.org or call the American Cancer Society at 715-824-6315. For additional information about the American Cancer Society, visit www.cancer.org or call 800-227-2345.