'There's hope'

Rathdrum Relay for Life offers support to those affected by cancer

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Rathdrum Relay for Life volunteer Hunter Phelps escorts cancer survivor Jo LaForge of Coeur d'Alene to dinner during the American Cancer Society fundraiser at Lakeland High on Friday night. Behind Phelps is Rathdrum's Lori Lacy, LaForge's daughter.

RATHDRUM - When it comes to fighting cancer, Al Dahl has an attitude.

It's one of confidence - and survival - for the 60-year-old Kellogg man.

"You have to tell the disease that you're going to kill it; it's not going to kill you," he said. "That's the attitude you have to have. I'm not ready to lie down and die yet. The way I look at it, I have 45 years left in me."

Dahl was among about 40 cancer survivors who participated in Friday night's second Rathdrum Relay for Life at Lakeland High School for an American Cancer Society fundraiser.

More than 20 teams and 200 participants were involved and more than $22,000 was raised, topping last year's total of $18,821.

"I'm flabbergasted," said Tamie Phelps, event chairwoman. "It's amazing how a small community comes together for this."

Two straight years of success and higher numbers this year show the event is here to stay and has strong support in Rathdrum, Phelps said.

Dahl survived Hepatitis C and lung cancer and now he's battling prostate cancer. He said he's "blessed" to have overcome the earlier hurdles.

"The Lord has his hands on me," he said. "That's how I feel."

Dahl said he enjoys the relay because it's about unity toward a cause. With that comes a message of hope.

"I like associating with other people and letting them know that they are winners," he said. "You have to believe in your heart that you are a winner, you are a survivalist. When they told me that I have cancer, I said to myself, 'I'm not going that way. I'm living a long, expensive life."

The event, which ends this morning with closing ceremonies at 7, features a survivor's lap, luminaries along the track honoring cancer victims, dinner for survivors and a guest, individuals and teams that have been fundraising, music and kids activities.

Winnie Barth, a 71-year-old from Twin Lakes Village, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2002.

"I'm lucky that the doctor caught it in the early stages and fast enough," she said. "I'm doing just fine."

Barth said she's thankful for the proficient medical field in the region. She has only missed a local relay once over the past 10 years.

She said she's thankful for the Rathdrum relay because it serves folks in that area of Kootenai County.

"At first, I was worried that it would dilute funds from other cancer fundraisers," she said. "But I'm now encouraged because it's more of a local event."

The relay is part of the support that's available to individuals and families impacted by cancer, she said.

"There's hope," she said. "There's always someone looking to help you and pick you back up. There's so many great support groups to help people get through the experience. It can be done."

Twin Lakes Village's Sue Lawrence organizes auction items during Friday night's Rathdrum Relay for Life at Lakeland High.

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