Janesville Relay For Life draws hundreds to fight cancer

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Neil Johnson
Saturday, August 4, 2012

— Hundreds of people walked in circles through the night at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds in Janesville.

They celebrated their lives, remembered the lives other others and rallied for a singular cause: To fight cancer.

“Keep fighting back until cancer is just a zodiac sign,” said Tammy Brown, a local organizer of the American Cancer Society’s 2012 Relay For Life at the fairgrounds. Brown was delivering a welcome address to the droves of local cancer survivors and their family and friends at the relay.

As of Friday evening, the all-night benefit walk around the track at the fairground looked like it would draw about 300 people and 21 sponsored teams, organizers said. The walk and its associated activities had raised about $40,000 Friday night.

Organizers hoped to net $56,000 by the end of the relay at 8 a.m. today.

Proceeds go to cancer research and services for those dealing with cancer, such as lodging and cosmetology programs.

The Survivors

Of the hundreds of people who walked in the relay Friday, two local cancer survivors had the honor of carrying the banner in the relay’s inaugural lap.

Hayley Diehls, a 2012 Janesville Parker High School graduate, and Reg Videgar, a Janesville resident, were named “honorary survivors” at the relay. Both spoke before the relay started.

Diehls, 18, underwent surgery and weeks of radiation treatments to treat a cancerous brain tumor doctors discovered after she began to have unexplained nausea in March 2011. Diehls’ last six brain scans showed no signs of cancer.

During a speech at the relay Friday, Diehls tearfully recalled the first question she asked her father after her oncologist diagnosed her with a malignant brain tumor.

“Daddy, what does malignant mean?” she said.

Since 2009, Videgar has twice fought non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a life-threatening type of blood cancer that he initially thought was a nagging cold. Though Videgar’s prognosis in 2009 was not good, he’s gone through two rounds of chemotherapy and a round of stem cell treatments. Now he’s cancer-free.

He thanked those who donate blood, recounting the plasma transfusions he needed to fight cancer.

Videgar, whose family joined him at the event, said he’s 59 1/2. He emphasized the half-year.

“When you’ve survived cancer, you really start counting the days to your birthday,” he said.

Diehls walked with 30 of her friends and family Friday. Some wore T-shirts that said “Team Hayley” and featured a cartoon skunk with the slogan “Brain Tumors Stink.”

Diehls said she plans to attend UW-Stevens Point in the fall to major in secondary education and Spanish.

“I’m not going to let the term brain cancer define me,” she said.

Tunes to Inspire

As dozens of people took to the fairgrounds track for the opening laps of the relay Friday, the relay’s announcer and disc jockey, Mark “Grape Ape” Livingston of Janesville, cranked up “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor.

Livingston said he chose tunes for the walk that reflect two themes.

“It helps if they’re songs about fighting back or if they’re songs about the people in your life who helped you fight back when you weren’t strong enough on your own,” he said.

Other songs Livingston played during the relay included:

-- “My Hero” by the Foo Fighters.

-- “I’ll Stand by You” by the Pretenders.

-- “I’m Standing Still” by Elton John.

-- “Angels Among Us” by Alabama.

Last updated: 5:14 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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