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Relay lights up fairgrounds in fight against cancer

Relay for life, owatonna, waseca, steele county, 2022
Nadine Macho, center, walked the survivors lap during Saturday’s Relay for Life event in Owatonna. The Ellendale resident, who was diagnosed a year ago with Stage 4 kidney cancer, was accompanied by her sister, Doreen Grundhauser, and husband Ross Macho. Staff photo by Joni Hubred
Joni Hubred, News Editor

That glow you may have seen coming from the Steele County fairgrounds Saturday evening was the work of volunteers and teams raising funds to fight a disease that has touched all their lives.

During Steele County Relay for Life, joined this year with Waseca’s event, teams walked a track laid out around the beer garden building to raise more than $50,000 for the American Cancer Society. As the sun set, luminaria–illuminated paper bags decorated by donors in memory or honor of a loved one–lighted their path.

Funds raised will help local residents who are fighting cancer, including Nadine Macho, who was diagnosed on Aug. 26, 2021, with stage 4 kidney cancer.

“The treatments I’m getting wouldn’t exist if not for the support,” the Ellendale resident said. “My tumors have shrunk. I’m doing pretty good.”

Speaking during the opening ceremony, American Cancer Society senior community manager Rick Jeddeloh said the Steele County event is “the one I enjoy the most.” During organizing meetings, he said, “we laugh more than we do anything else.”

“It’s never like going to work when I come here, it’s like going to visit some friends,” he added.

After attending Relays in other counties, Jeddeloh shared the stories of three people that he said stuck with him:

Casey O’Brien, age 23 and from McLeod County, is a six-time cancer survivor. The former kicker for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers shared a message “to take great value in each day. Look at each day and enjoy all the gifts you’re given in each day.”

In Brown County, a group of high school kids supported honorary survivor Addy Fairbairn, a senior at New Ulm High School. She’s had over 100 rounds of chemo and still undergoes treatment once a month at University of Minnesota.

“All she talked about was how to have great value in each day and your family,” Jeddeloh said.

“If you don’t think cancer changes your perspective, talk to anybody who has survived cancer,” he added.

Jeddeloh also pointed to Owatonna’s honored survivor Jim Miller, whose story he told at other Relay for Life events. Miller is battling mantle cell lymphoma for a second time, with a treatment that is much less debilitating than the chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant he went through in 2008.

“What we do when we come to a Relay for Life event and donate to the American Cancer Society, it matters,” Jeddeloh said. “I learned from Jim that what we do is truly life-saving.”

Macho said staying positive has been important to her, as has taking one step at a time. She was very moved by Saturday’s event.

“It’s pretty overwhelming when you look at all the (luminaria) bags and see the support from the community,” she said.

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