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Relay For Life announces Honorary Chairs

Tammy Pitzen1 / 2
Pierce County River Falls Relay For Life honorary co-chair Janet Burns is pictured with her family. Submitted photo2 / 2

The 20th annual Relay For Life is set to be held Friday, April 6-8 at River Falls High School. This year's theme is "A Journey Through Time With Hope." It is focused on "the journey that cancer takes all of those affected on."

The schedule includes a spaghetti dinner, opening ceremony, silent auction, luminaria ceremony, pizza party, and more.

This year's honorary co-chairs are Janet Burns and Tammy Pitzen.

The following are each of their stories in their own words.

Janet Burns

I thought I had insurance. I thought I purchased the family plan. I've been involved with the Pierce County River Falls Relay for Life, in different capacities, for over 15 years. I've been a team member, a team captain, a committee member, and a committee chair. I've donated, I've asked for donations, I've served breakfast for donations, I've done pushups for donations, I've sang for donations, I've stopped singing for donations. I thought I had insurance. Yes, I thought I had the family plan.

It was May 2016 when we found out that my mom had cancer. Sept. 2, after dropping my son off for his first year of college, I got the message that my dad had cancer. I officially became part of a caregiving group. I'm number seven in a family of 11. I was under the impression that my family plan covered my parents. Nope, not only did it not cover my parents, apparently it wasn't going to cover my siblings. December 2016, my sister Tammy got to hear, "You have cancer." In March, it was my sister Cheryl, May, my sister Tammy got her second diagnosis, and in July it was my sister Terry's turn. Whoa, didn't I do enough pushups? I. Sang. In. Public. I thought I had insurance.

Tammy Pitzen

We have good news and we have bad news. These words still bounce around clearly in my head after hearing them March 1, 2016.

That day I found out I had clear cell-renal cell carcinoma, kidney cancer. That was the bad news. The good news - it looked like it was contained to my right kidney.

Kidney cancer is another silent, but slow growing cancer that can go undetected until it's too late. My doctor believed I had the cancer for two to three years. There were no symptoms until the morning of Feb. 28, 2016 which was blood in my urine. I didn't experience any pain or discomfort and it only happened that morning. An initial doctor visit thought possible kidney stones. After two CT scans they found no kidney stones but they did find the Stage 3 cancer.

I had a radical nephrectomy, removal of my entire right kidney, on March 28, 2016. That was the only treatment I needed. It was hard to wrap my head around the fact that when I woke up that morning I had cancer and when I went to bed that night I was cancer free. My cancer passage has taught me many valuable things about myself, about life and about this village I live in.

I am honored and humbled to be the Honorary Co-Chair for the 2018 Relay For Life. I look forward to sharing my story and celebrating the fight against cancer with my community.

For more information about Relay For Life, email