Relay for Life fights back against cancer

Published 9:38 am Saturday, August 12, 2023

Poor weather couldn’t stop a good cause, as despite rain people still showed up for Friday night’s Relay for Life event at the Freeborn County fairgrounds.

Crystal Hall, whose daughter Cora was diagnosed with cancer last year, was the guest speaker for the event.

“Cora’s journey began in late February of 2022,” she said. “She was having severe headaches and just not being herself.”

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According to Crystal, Cora’s pain was so high at one point she didn’t want to play with any of her siblings, and noise seemed loud for her.

After not finding relief from over-the-counter medication, she was taken to the Emergency Room, where staff concluded Cora might have needed glasses.

After her left eye turned inward and made her appear cross-eyed and a consultation with a pediatrician, the doctor scheduled an MRI.

She was diagnosed with a baseball-sized tumor in her brain.

“News like that stops you in your tracks,” she said, adding not being able to help made her feel hopeless as a mother.

On March 11, 2022, Cora underwent surgery where doctor’s removed a portion of her skull to remove the tumor.

After doctor’s realized how sensitive Cora was to chemotherapy, they determined she wouldn’t undergo another round.

“While receiving chemo, Cora needed two blood cell transfusions and many platelet transfusions because of low levels noticed at her bi-weekly blood draws,” Crystal said.

Since then, Cora has visited oncology and endocrinology, and doctors will continue to keep an eye on her as her pituitary gland received “quite a bit” of radiation.

“We continue to have MRIs every three months,” she said. “So far, Cora’s scans have all come back clear. She has amazed all of us.”

Jacob Hall, Cora’s father, described Crystal and Cora being named speakers as “an honor.”

This was the Halls’ first year participating in Relay for Life.

“Great event, great turnout,” he said.

He also encouraged anyone with small children to listen when they say something is wrong.

“Go in for a check-up at least and make sure everything is OK,” he said.

Like Jacob, Crystal thanked those who showed up to support the cause.

“It’s a great event for a community and a great fundraiser,” she said. “Maybe with everyone’s donations we can make a change.”

Getting Crystal to speak seemed like a natural choice.

“One of the committee members suggested [Crystal],” said Shari Sprague, chairwoman for Freeborn County Relay for Life.

The goal of the walk was to raise $25,000. Before the event started, over $15,000 was raised. There were nine teams, and she was hopeful to reach $20,000 by the end of Friday night. Sprague was confident they would raise $25,000 for the event.

Anyone wishing to donate who couldn’t attend the relay can donate through the American Cancer Society Relay for Life website or contact Sprague at 507-373-3938. Donations will be accepted through the end of September.

Marissa Hanson volunteered at the Zion Lutheran Church freewill donation baking booth.

“We’ve been involved with Relay for Life since before I was born,” she said.

Steve Weisgram, president of Albert Lea Community Band, said he was proud to be there.

“I love seeing the people turning out, I love seeing the people’s reaction to the auction and listening to music and the heart-felt stories that people share with people,” he said. “That’s a really personal thing to do, and I think it’s wonderful that they share their stories of success and also their stories of how they fight and how they really, really want cancer to go away.”

Weisgram said he planned to be at the event for “a while.”

Mary Nelson, herself a breast cancer survivor, was there to show support.

“I usually try to do this every year, but then with COVID came, then we kind of stopped going,” she said.

Her advice to others: Get exams and follow up with doctors.

Mary Jo Dorman had been attending the walks for as long as she could remember and described the walk as a way to honor the memories of people who either passed because of cancer or who were dealing with it currently.

Dorman’s son, Matt, played in the band, while her daughter-in-law Samantha decorated some of the bags.

“It’s fun to walk through the trails and see everybody’s names,” she said.