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Monticello mom...
Grateful for Relay for Life

By Ed DuBois

A mother of four, Cassie Kisner has a greater appreciation for life and her family since being treated for cancer, and she now expresses much gratitude toward the annual Relay For Life event.

Providing her cancer survival story, organizers of the local fundraiser for the American Cancer Society said, "Without the wonderful event of Relay For Life, Cassie Kisner might not have been able to be here today."

Cassie, a 1998 Buffalo High School graduate, and her husband, Jason, and their children, Hunter, 16, Hannah, 14, Austin, 8, and Avery, 4, live in Monticello, which is the host community for the 2015 Relay For Life of Northern Wright County.  The 19th annual event is taking place on Friday, July 17 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following morning at the track outside the Monticello Middle School.


Story told

Telling her story, Cassie recently wrote about her experiences.  She said the cancer research supported by the American Cancer Society helped her survive.

"Ten years ago, my treatment plan did not exist.  But thanks to the American Cancer Society and many medical trials, I am here today," Cassie said.  "Cancer does not discriminate and can attack any one of us when we least expect it."

She began her journey in February 2011.

"I was living the dream, happily married with three wonderful children and was pregnant with our fourth child.  Days after giving birth to my beautiful daughter, Avery, I started feeling ill," she wrote.

She was "crazy tired, with fevers and chills."


'You have cancer'

"Two weeks after my daughter was born, we were told those words none of us want to here, 'You have cancer.'  I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma.  Our world turned upside down, and what I hadn't realized until it affected my own family, when one goes through cancer, the whole family goes through cancer," Cassie wrote.

"I was fortunate enough to be sent to the Monticello Cancer Center, minutes from my house," she continued.  "I was treated like family there.

"My prognosis originally was very promising, six months of chemo and a bit of radiation and you'll have this thing kicked.

"Unfortunately, my story didn't go that way.  After four months of chemotherapy, my PET scans revealed that my chemo had stopped working.

"I thought that my darkest day had past when I was told I had cancer, but this day was actually worse.  My only option for a cure now was going to be with a bone marrow transplant.

"All I kept thinking was how can this be?  I was so healthy; I was running five miles a day, never drank, never smoked, ate well, had absolutely no family history of cancer - how can this be happening to me?"


Unfair for her children

Concern about her health combined with concern for her children.

"I struggled more with how unfair this was to my children," Cassie wrote.  "Having to be in the hospital for a week or months at a time, there were lots of things I missed out on.  No child should have to watch their Mommy's hair fall out or see tubes coming out of her chest.

"I must say, I have some amazing children.  My oldest son is a teenager who I asked if he would be embarrassed if I didn't wear my wig.  He responded, 'I would go anywhere with you.'

"My ten-year-old daughter, on her own, cut her long, beautiful hair and donated it to Locks of Love.

"My tough little (then) four-year-old boy, who every night at bedtime would rub my bald head, asked, 'Is the cancer bugs gone yet?' and kiss my head."


Amazingly blessed

"Cancer, as awful as it is has been, showed me how amazingly blessed I am with wonderful family, friends and a wonderful community," Cassie wrote.

"We ventured five more months of chemo before I was ready for my transplant, and two days after my 32nd birthday, I had a bone marrow transplant at the University of Minnesota.

"In Minnesota, we are very fortunate to have some of the best doctors in the country supporting our cancer fighters.  I am incredibly blessed and forever grateful to have top-notch Dr. Greg Vercellotti as my trailblazer.  He simply goes above and beyond the call of duty."


New outlook

Cassie told about some of the positive aspects of cancer.

"Cancer has changed me.  It made me look within and rearrange some of my priorities," she said.  "I have learned to not sweat the small stuff.

"At the end of the day, I am tired, but when my son wants to read that story one more time, I read it anyways.  I am truly thankful for each and every day I am here.

"Any advice I could give any of you is to not wait for a diagnosis to change the way you live.  Love stronger, forgive quickly and don't sweat the small stuff."


Thanks community

She treasurers the support provided by others.

"I have the opportunity to make a difference, and I thank God for that every day.  The care and support that I received in our own community helped my family and I deal with our situation so much, we wanted to find a way to pay back our community for all they did for us," Cassie wrote.


Giving back

"My husband and a few other wonderful people in our lives that have been touched by this awful disease wanted to help others in our community," Cassie said.  "We started a foundation called Party For A Purpose.  This September will be our fourth annual 5K run/walk family event to raise money to support cancer patients and their families.  All of the proceeds from the event stay right here locally to help our community patients who are fighting this horrible disease.  To date we have helped over 60 families with financial grants!"


More birthdays

"More birthdays" is a Relay For Life theme, which Cassie mentioned as she concluded.

"Relay For Life is an amazing event.  It is changing the future of cancer patients everywhere so we can celebrate more birthdays.  I am honored to be a part of it; every step is making a difference!"


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