Survivors, supporters turn out for Relay for Life

Event organizers: ‘Next year will be better’

Laura Fennewald (far left) and Sue Johnson (third from left) support their father, Tony Lander (second from left) and grandmother, Darlene Lander (far right) during the Survivors’ Lap at the 2012 Relay for Life of Callaway Cancer Friday night. Tony Lander is currently battling lung cancer. Darlene Lander first battled thyroid cancer 30 years ago and has been cancer free for 12 years after a third battle — that time with lung cancer.

Laura Fennewald (far left) and Sue Johnson (third from left) support their father, Tony Lander (second from left) and grandmother, Darlene Lander (far right) during the Survivors’ Lap at the 2012 Relay for Life of Callaway Cancer Friday night. Tony Lander is currently battling lung cancer. Darlene Lander first battled thyroid cancer 30 years ago and has been cancer free for 12 years after a third battle — that time with lung cancer. Photo by Katherine Cummins.

On Thursday, Fulton resident Tony Lander was in the hospital, receiving chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer.

Friday night, Lander was at the Missouri School for the Deaf track, participating in the 2012 Relay for Life of Callaway County Survivors’ Walk, his mother — and fellow cancer survivor — Darlene Lander by his side.

“I’m half here,” said Lander, who also relied on a cane and daughters Sue Johnson and Laura Fennewald to make his way around the track. “It was important to be here because we’ve got to do something to stop this disease.”

Darlene Lander — who first battled thyroid cancer 30 years ago, then breast cancer and again later lung cancer — has been cancer-free for 12 years and agreed with her son that participating in the relay “is something we’ve got to do.”

There were 17 teams participating in the Callaway relay this year — down from 31 in 2011 — and Tony Lander said he hopes the event will experience a resurgence in 2013.

“The thing people need to understand is, nobody is exempt with this. On February 19th, I went into work and had never had been in pain or been sick. On March 12th, I was diagnosed with stage 2 lung cancer — they took half my lung out,” said Lander, who lost his father to cancer. “Nobody’s exempt. It could be your father, your mother, your child.

“If we don’t support (the relay, which provides funding for research and patient support programs through the American Cancer Society) so we can fight it, we’re never going to get anywhere.”

Guest speaker Jamie Oestreich, who grew up in Mokane, shared her own experience of losing her father to esophageal cancer when she was 14.

Oestreich — who described herself as a daddy’s girl who looked to her father as “my hero, my role model, my best friend” — said her family “lived every day like it was the last,” after receiving her father’s grim diagnosis.

“We had six months to make a lifetime’s worth of memories,” she said, adding that “we didn’t let cancer rule our life.”

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