Vi Waln: Rosebud Sioux community joins together to end cancer

Vi Waln

Families Have Lost Many Relatives To Cancer
By Vi Waln
Lakota Country Times Columnist

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life movement is the world’s largest and most impactful fundraising event to end cancer. It unites communities across the globe to celebrate people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, as well as taking action to finish the fight once and for all. With the support of thousands of volunteers, the American Cancer Society is helping to save more than 500 lives a day.

In South Dakota there are 32 Relay For Life events registered. Some have already taken place, such as the ones held in Mission and Rapid City last week, while other events will happen between now and September. These events are organized entirely by volunteers. They devote their personal time and resources throughout the year to organize memorable gatherings enjoyed by people of all ages.

Families in Indian Country have lost many relatives to cancer. However, there are also many people who’ve lived cancer-free for many years. Then there are the survivors recently declared to be in remission, while other folks are bravely battling cancer through treatment.

Chemotherapy and radiation are the most common methods used to treat cancer. Both are very hard on the human body. Also, since we don’t have any local facilities, patients must travel to either Sioux Falls or Rapid City for treatment. Many even travel to Rochester, Minnesota to be seen and treated by cancer specialists. Thus, being treated for cancer is extremely hard on patients and their families. This disease presents a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial burden on many people.

Cancer patients are brave. Every single day they are challenged to find the ability to continue their treatment. They depend on the prayers of their families and others to get them through the hardest times.

June 11 was probably the warmest day we’ve experienced so far this year. But that didn’t stop the “Rockin’ On The Rez: Relay For Life” event from happening in Mission. The gathering was moved from the Todd County High School track to the Sinte Gleska University Multipurpose building in consideration of elders, cancer survivors and patients.

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There is a large group of cancer survivors on the Rosebud Reservation. Many of us have relatives who’ve lost a courageous battle against cancer and now walk in the spirit world. Entire families attended this year’s event to remember the ones we’ve lost, as well as to honor the relatives who have survived cancer or continue to battle the disease through treatment. There was an abundance of encouragement offered to those who attended.

Thank you to the committee volunteers who put a lot of time and effort into organizing this year’s activity. Volunteer work takes away from family. I’m sure there were many times when they sacrificed personal time to complete tasks related to the Relay of Life event. Yet, these volunteers organize these important gatherings willingly in order to honor relatives, as well as give back to relatives and community members who are still suffering from this debilitating disease.

Billie Artichoker, Maureece Heinert, Whitney Meek, Rose Ruff, Casandra Artichoker, Paulette Emery and Meredith Haukaas serve as members of the Relay For Life committee in Todd County. They were joined by members of their Tiospaye on June 11 to make the 2016 activity a big hit for everyone who attended. We appreciate all their hard work. Wopila for your dedication to our local Rockin On The Rez, Relay For Life event!

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