De Soto lacing up for fifth annual Relay for Life
Cancer survivors seek to save lives through awareness
The careers of Jean Epperson and Glen Nelson provide the two De Soto residents with insights into the experience of surviving cancer.
Friday evening, they will share that experience with the community when they are joined by nearly 20 other area cancer survivors in the survivors' lap near the start of the De Soto Relay for Life Friday and the De Soto school district football stadium.
Epperson is a career nurse enjoying what she calls a "part-time retirement." She still helps at De Soto Family Practice when needed.
In 1988, Epperson was diagnosed with adrenal carcinoma, a relatively rare form of cancer diagnosed in approximately 200 American women annually.
"I would not be here today if I wasn't working for a doctor who insisted I follow up on my symptoms," she said.
Seven years ago this summer, Glen Nelson was diagnosed with prostate cancer. As a retired high school principal, Nelson knows the value of education. Now, he wants to share what he learned and sees Relay for Life as a way to do that.
The walk, Nelson said, would offer proof of the survivability of prostate cancer if detected and treated early.
"Too many people ignore it," he said. "All men over 50 should request their doctors give them a PSA test."
According to the American Cancer Society Web page, prostate cancer is the second-most common type of cancer found in American men to skin cancer. There are an estimated 189,000 new cases annually. About 30,200 men will die of this disease, making it the second leading cause of cancer death in men, exceeded only by lung cancer.
But Nelson said the survivor rate is near 100 percent if caught and treated early. That knowledge made his decision to have surgery easy.
"It was no decision as far as I was concerned," he said. "I was three or four weeks late getting back to school. It was not the best summer vacation I had, but it worked out extremely well."
Like Nelson, Epperson has been cancer free since her surgery in 1988. She, too, views her participation in the Relay as a way to build cancer awareness.
"To me, that's one of the biggest things," she said. "It's a way to make a statement, 'I've been through it, and I'm still around.' If detected early, cancer can almost always be cured."
Epperson said she hoped the example of her experience and other survivors would give hope to those recently diagnosed with cancer. From experience, she knows that can be terrifying.
"I was in a state of shock when I heard," she said. "It took me a week to work through everything and realize I was going to have to deal with it. If I had not had faith in God, I don't know how I would have reacted to it."
Prostate cancer awareness has received a boost as Bob Dole, New York Yankee Manager Joe Torre and other celebrities shared their experiences with the disease. Like those men, Nelson said he is enjoying an active life after his surgery.
"I walk at least three miles a day," he said. "I think it is very important to get exercise."
Nelson, his wife, Ruby, and the families of their two daughters, Tari Thompson and Tami Reeves, make the De Soto Relay for Life a family gathering.
"When the Relay first started here in De Soto, we told our kids we wanted our own family team," he said.
The family will be one of 20 teams participating in this year's De Soto event. Nelson said the family will barbecue, camp out and walk during the Relay, but he admitted they would probably all go home before the 6 a.m. conclusion.
It is a fun evening, Nelson said, but an important one.
"I'm a strong believer in cancer research," he said. "If I wasn't contributing to Relay for Life, it would be through some other research organization. If we're going to conquer this disease, it's going to take money."