Campaign against cancer

By Thomas Garcia: Freedom New Mexico

Marilyn Carter won’t be on the floor of Greyhound Arena tonight when Portales’ Relay for Life gets under way. It’s the first time she’s missed since she was diagnosed with cancer.

Carter’s spirit and drive will be there through the efforts of her daughter, Debbie Stenstrom, who has helped coordinate the event the last two years in her position as Family, Career and Community Leaders of America sponsor at Portales High School.

It is hard to find someone that does not know someone who is battling cancer or someone who has died from cancer, said Stenstrom. “You never know if cancer is going to affect someone in your life.”

Strenstrom’s mother was first diagnosed with cancer in 2001, the cancer was in remission for five years until its return in 2006.

Carter, of Clovis, has participated for the past six years in the Relays for Life in Clovis and Portales. She has been teaching full-time in Dimmit, Texas and will not be able to participate in the Relay this year.

“I absolutely hate that I am going to miss a relay the event always makes me feel good,” Carter said, “ Anytime that you can bring a group of people together to fight for a common cause is great.”

“It is amazing to see how my mother continues to work so hard and do so much while battling the cancer,” Stenstrom said. “Her courage and strength to survive makes what that I am doing in the Relay for Life all worthwhile.”

Stenstrom’s, family has a history of cancer besides her mother’s battle. Her father Glenn Carter, aunt Jo Ann Bernhardt-Richards and grandmother Louise Carter all died from the disease. Her grandfather Dalton May is a cancer survivor living in Memphis, Texas and has been cancer free since 1998.

“I’m doing this in honor of my mother and in memory of my dad, aunt and grandmother.” Stenstrom said.

Carter said, that the Relay for Life is one of the positive things that is associated with cancer. Usually everything dealing with cancer is seen as negative and bad.

“The Relay gives people a chance to come together and see that there are people who care and want to help and most important that they are not alone in their fight, “ Carter said.

Stenstrom said, the strength that her mother has shown through the sickness and her participation in previous relays has inspired her work as an organizer for the Relay for Life.

Stenstrom’s participation is not only driven by her family that has cancer but for herself and her daughters.

“Something that I worry about is what would happen if I got got cancer and died who would raise my kids,” Stenstrom said. “As a parent the scariest thought is your children getting sick with cancer. It is hard enough to watch an adult fight and struggle through the treatments. It is amazing to see children that have the disease fight and work through the treatments trying to get better.”

The money that is raised in the Relay for Life could one day help find a cure in the future, Stenstrom said.

“It makes me so proud to see Debbie work so hard for the Relay for Life,” Carter said. “It is great to see her take such an active roll in the fight against cancer. What is even more amazing is that she involves her students who have developed a passion to help.”

Since Stenstrom’s FCCLA classes became involved, the money raised has seen a dramatic increase. In 2005 $25,000 was raised and with help from Texico and Yucca FCCLA that amount was increased to $35,000 last year.

Everybody should take the time to participate and help raise money to fight this disease, Stenstrom said. Donating your time and money helps out research in many ways.

“Research has helped to develop medication that helps cancer patients deal with the effects of chemotherapy,” said Stenstrom. “Every little bit helps. Someone might think that their time or donation might not make a difference but it does.”

“Just because you don’t know someone who has cancer doesn’t mean you should not participate.” Stenstrom said. “We encourage the community to come out and help raise money for cancer research. The more money that is raised leads to new research and possibly one day a cure.”