Relay for Life honors memories, celebrates survivors of cancer

NEW ULM – The 18th Annual Brown County Relay for Life honored the memory of those diagnosed with cancer and those who had passed on Friday night at the Brown County Fairgrounds.

The event is a celebration of the Brown County Relay for Life’s fundraising efforts for the American Cancer Society. Cancer survivors and family members of those that were diagnosed with cancer gave testimony at the event.

This year’s honorary chair was Denise Clyne of New Ulm. She caught the brain infection viral meningo-encephalitis at a young age in 1976. She endured brain seizures in the right side of her brain for 20 years until receiving treatment surgery.

She eventual came to work at the local HyVee. In 2000, she discovered a lump in her left breast and underwent a lumpectomy at the Virginia Piper Cancer Center in Minneapolis, along with chemotherapy. She took cancer prevention medication for five years.

During her time at HyVee, she made friends with a co-worker named Scott. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with larynx cancer in 2006. He underwent surgery and chemotherapy that resulted in him needing a trach for the rest of his life. He later passed away in 2012 when his cancer returned.

In December of 2010, her breast cancer returned after years of healthy living. It metastasized to her liver, lung, bones, and a large mass on her pelvis. She praised the team at the Virginia Piper Cancer Center in New Ulm at the New Ulm Medical as incredibly supportive and instrumental in her treatment. She said she lost her hair twice in chemotherapy, but was blessed with never having to be sick.

Last February, an MRI examination of her brain revealed four areas of cancer cells. She received Gamma Knife Radio Surgery and her April MRI scans have shown good results.

She is currently undergoing chemotherapy every three weeks, along with x-rays and medication changes as needed. She said she is determined to win her battle with cancer.

Joleen Wendinger, who was recognized for her caregiver work this year, said that during her time caring for her husband Paul during his battle with cancer, they were able to overcome all kinds of hardship and exceed the expectations of doctors. She said she felt they won Paul’s battle with cancer because he was able to pass away peacefully at home, surrounded by family.

The speech was followed by the Survivor’s Lap around the grounds and the traditional lighting of the luminaria. Luminaria are paper bags, filled with gravel and a lighted candle, that have the name of a cancer survivor or someone who has died from cancer. They are the organization’s primary fundraiser. When lit, the thousands of luminaria cause the names of cancer victims and survivors to glow and shimmer along the Survivors Lap path. More than 4,000 luminaries lined the track this year.

This year’s event Survivor’s Lap featured more than 200 participants and 27 teams. The combined total of funds raised over the last 17 years exceeded $1.3 million.

The event goes all night and concludes 6 a.m. today.

Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at

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