The Star-Herald

County family rallies for Relay for Life

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Heather Fox of Fort Fairfield and her family have seen their share of cancer.  Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, after she found a lump during a self-exam.  After having surgery, she continues to undergo chemotherapy.  Once her chemo ends June 20, then it’s on to radiation next.  They also found a lump on her thyroid, and more surgery and treatment may be in her future.  

Yet, Heather and her family are counting their blessings and are still trying to help others through the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Aroostook County as Heather’s Team.  The team has already raised about $3500, and is looking forward to raising more at the June 16-17 event at Caribou High School.

The Relay For Life of Aroostook County begins Friday, June 16, at 6 p.m. and ends Saturday, June 17, at 8 a.m. at Caribou High School. The event dedicates the first lap around the track to honor cancer survivors and their caregivers.  

Heather says, “The support I have had through this has been outstanding! Now, we Relay to educate, support, and find a cure for cancer. Remember to always do your self-exams, men as well as women, early detection can save your life! 

Heather’s family and friends rallied around her when she was diagnosed. Her siblings (pictured left) wanted to help cover her out of pocket expenses, so they did. Brother, Daniel Hafford, started a Gofundme account.  Sister, Dani Keiser started a t-shirt campaign.  Brother, Bill Hafford, along with other family members and friends, hosted a benefit supper and auction.

Dani Keiser says, once they got started helping Heather, they realized they wanted to do more, “After we raised enough money to pay for Heather’s out of pocket medical expenses, we wanted to give back. We got involved in relay to help find a cure for cancer, educate people about cancer, and to help those who do not have the support Heather has had. We Relay to give back.  Heather has had so much support, but not everyone has that.  We Relay to show that no one fights alone.”

Heather’s Team is no stranger to cancer.  The team of about 20 family and friends also includes a ten-year cancer survivor (Tracy Deschaine, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma), a four-year breast cancer survivor (Lisa Knight) and another teammate has recently been diagnosed with renal (kidney) cancer. Several members of the team also have relatives battling cancer right now.

“It is this kind of giving back, this resiliency of spirit, this unselfish love and support that brings so many people to Relay,” says Ellen Russell with the American Cancer Society of Maine. “What Heather’s Team is doing is phenomenal.  And being at Relay, being surrounded by so many people who are doing all they can to support each other and the American Cancer Society’s cutting edge cancer research and programs to support cancer patients- it’s a very powerful thing.  It is this kind of support that will help us eventually find cures.”

To help educate and raise awareness, this Heather’s Team began handing out pamphlets on breast cancer and reminding women to do a self-exam every month. Dani started making bracelets as a fundraiser for Relay. The siblings have expanded that fundraiser into One Bracelet at a Time and have set a goal to get an end of treatment bell into every cancer center in the country needing one. When patients finish their cancer treatments, they ring these bells in what can often be emotional moments.  The team has donated bells to both the Jefferson Cary Cancer Center and Aroostook Cancer Care and are in talks with a couple more facilities. 

All Relay For Life events are free, family-friendly and are open to the public.   For more information visit RelayForlife.org/AroostookME.  

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