Every cancer survivor has a story, Patrick McGinnis told those gathered Friday evening at the Downtown Pavilion for the 2018 Relay for Life of Ellis County.
Some families have more than one story — husbands and wives or parents and children as survivors.
One family at Friday night’s event had three stories.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in January and halfway through her chemotherapy, Ashleigh Ollendieck, 28, Colby, said she’s not a survivor yet, but she walked with her twin sister, Megan Ball, Kansas City, and their mother, Deb Ryan, Hays.
Ball was diagnosed with breast cancer in October. Their mother is a seven-year survivor.
All three were diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, meaning the most common receptors that cause breast cancer — estrogen, progesterone and the HER-2 gene — are not present in the tumor, often making it difficult to treat.
Genetic testing showed all the women had a gene mutation making cancer more likely for them.
The twins said their prognosis is good, but they and their mother all at times got emotional talking about their journeys with cancer.
“You’re kind of prepared for it. We had mutations and knew this was a possibility. We’ve known for seven years. Just that it happened so early is crazy,” Ollendieck said.
“I thought it was easier going through after Mom went went through it and was OK,” Ball said.
Ball was diagnosed through MRI and a mammogram that had become routine after her mother’s diagnosis. After her sister’s diagnosis, Ollendieck thought she should get checked and her tumor was discovered.
“It was crazy,” Ollendieck said. “Our stepdad and brother were like, ‘You guys just have to do everything together.’ I called it a sympathy tumor.”
Theirs were just a few of the stories among the many at Friday’s event, which took place in downtown Hays for the first time.
The opening ceremony was conducted under the shade of the new pavilion on 10th street, which was blocked off between Main and Oak streets. Around 700 luminaries lined both sides of the the block, making for a shorter walking path than in previous years.
In recent years, the relay has been at the Hays Middle School track, Big Creek Crossing and Gross Memorial Coliseum.
But the event still had familiar components, such as the recognition of survivors and survivor lap, lighting of the luminaries and reading of the names of survivors and those who died from cancer.
During the opening ceremony, two long-time supporters of the Relay for Life of Ellis County were recognized.
The family of Bernita Kinderknecht received a plaque in recognition of her support. Kinderknecht died just a week after last year’s event. She started attending in 2008 at the age 79 and was often recognized as the oldest participant, even walking the track all night when the event ended at 7 a.m. Her memorial raised more than $1,900 for Ellis County Relay for Life.
Mary Ann Randa was recognized by Kim Peach, staff partner with the American Cancer Society, for her years of service with the relay committee.
The event’s goal was $35,000. Prior to Friday’s event, $17,138 had been raised.