A Seymour woman was in nursing school when her aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Heidi Leinart’s aunt eventually passed away from the disease, and Leinart said that is one of the main reasons she eventually decided she wanted to work with cancer patients after finishing up her schooling.
Wendy Nobbe of Seymour was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 and breast cancer in October 2016.
Melissa Pressler lost her father to cancer when she was 21 and a close friend to cancer a year ago.
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Although there’s no direct connection between Leinart, Nobbe and Pressler, the three are drawn together by a disease that is among the leading causes of death worldwide.
Nobbe is one of the patients who relies on Leinart, now a registered nurse at Schneck Medical Center, for her treatment and support.
On Friday, Pressler served as the community manager for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in Seymour. Nobbe participated in the annual event, conducted since 1997, as one of the survivors, and Leinart participated as a caretaker.
“There is not a person who isn’t affected by cancer,” Pressler said. “One out of two men and one out of three women will hear the words, ‘You have cancer.'”
And each of those people is someone’s mother, father, family member, friend, coworker or a stranger passed at the supermarket — all of whom make up the web of people throughout the community connected by cancer.
More than 250 people showed up Friday at Seymour Middle School, making up more than 20 teams to help support those fighting against cancer of all forms. The walk was conducted in the school gymnasium this year because of rain.
By the time the event started at 6 p.m., teams had collected more than $36,000 to provide services to cancer patients and fund the research to find a cure for cancer.
The goal was to raise $50,000, an amount Pressler said she had faith they would reach.
Faith played a major role in Relay for Life in many ways.
Susie Meier of Seymour was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2008.
After an MRI and consultation with many doctors, it was decided she would have to undergo a mastectomy.
“I felt like I was having a limb amputated. It was like having a piece of who I was cut off,” Meier said.
Meier said there were complications, but the cancer didn’t spread, and in February 2009, she was pronounced cancer-free.
“I had family support and my faith in God,” she said. “There was lots of prayer. It helped me a lot.”
Faith is an important tool in the fight against cancer, Nobbe said.
“Make sure you have faith,” she said. “If you’re grounded deep in faith, that will lift you up and keep you going.”
Nobbe also mentioned the support provided by her family, especially her 22- and 17-year-old daughters and the support of the community — a community connected by the idea of defeating cancer.
The uniting theme for this year’s Relay was “Lights! Camera! Relay for a Cure!”
“It’s very near and dear to me to help communities come together and support not only the programs in their area but the people in the community, as well,” Pressler said.
Community is how Leinart describes the support system at Schneck Medical Center for those with cancer.
“I know what it’s like to be a family member hearing that their loved one has cancer,” she said. “I know what it’s like to have to give people a choice that they may not understand or may be hard, and I want to help them.”
Nobbe said the community support system, which includes Leinart, gives her hope.
“It’s amazing that we have all these people supporting us,” Nobbe said.
“Everyone thinks that treatments are dark and gloomy, and it shouldn’t be that way. If we can bring a little humor or a little faith to help them get through, we will,” she added.
Pressler said Relay for Life might be wrapped up for the year, but the group has already begun preparing for next year’s event and could still use more leadership team members for future fundraisers.
“It takes a lot of volunteer and staff support,” Pressler said.
Besides Relay for Life, people interested in helping in the fight against cancer can look into other programs such as Road to Recovery, Reach to Recovery, Look Good Feel Better, Hope Lodge and more by going to cancer.org or calling 800-227-2345.