This year’s Dyersville area Relay for life will look a bit different, but the purpose of the event remains the same — supporting cancer research and assisting cancer patients, their families and caregivers — according to event coordinator Cindy Willenborg.
“The Dyersville Area Relay for Life is Friday, May 28, with several events happening that day,” Willenborg said in a recent phone interview.
The day starts with a food truck from Buenie Bottoms at the Beckman High School parking lot from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with proceeds donated to Relay for Life.
“Pre-orders are welcome and encouraged and drive-thrus and walk-ups are welcomed as well,” Willenborg said. “Pre-orders will be ready at 10:50 a.m.”
Orders can be submitted to Willenborg at Carquest in Dyersville, with pulled pork, hamburger and brat entree options along with a side of homemade chips or coleslaw for $10.
From 2-5 p.m., KDST will host a relay radiothon with guest survivor DJs. Phone call donations are encouraged with businesses and individuals having the opportunity to match funds during a specified time frame.
“We will also have an online luminary ceremony via Facebook starting at 5 p.m.,” Willenborg said. “The luminaria will also be on display at Beckman High School from May 21-29.”
One of this year’s honored survivors is Earlville native Mike Mensen, who currently resides in Adel, just west of Des Moines. After a routine physical examination two years ago, Mensen received a positive prostate cancer diagnosis.
One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. It can be a serious disease, but most men do not die from it, and there are more than 3.1 million prostate cancer survivors in the United States. Treatment success rates are high in comparison with many other types of cancer.
“In November 2019, my urologist called me and said a biopsy came back with one sample positive for cancer — prostate cancer,” Mensen said recently. “I’d had no issues at all. My primary care doctor had been watching my PSA counts since I was 50.
“I had my annual physical in August, and the PSA numbers came back high, so a biopsy was the next step.”
Mensen explained there are numerous options in treating prostate cancer.
“The first thing I would tell someone getting diagnosed with prostate cancer is to take a breath — you’ve got time. Prostate cancer is very slow and the only reason we tend to worry about it is that it tends to move to other parts of the body,” Mensen said. “My cancer was diagnosed very early in the game.
“There are a ton of options and we narrowed it down to three,” he said. “The first is removing the prostate through surgery, you can take radiation therapy and there’s hormone therapy. There are other options out there, but those are the three main ones we talked about.”
Some men choose to wait and see what the cancer does before undertaking a treatment program, but Mensen elected to take action immediately.
“My personality is not to sit and wait and see what it does,” Mensen said. “In discussions with my doctor, we decided to go for surgery.”
After the prostate was removed in December 2019, Mensen continued to have elevated PSA levels.
“My doctor told me the only thing that would raise the count is prostate material, and I still had some cancer in me,” he said. “At that point, we decided to wait and see what happened and three months later took another test. We waited and did another test in three more months, but my PSA levels were still high.
“At that point, in October 2020, we did radiation and hormone therapy. I finished 42 rounds of radiation Feb. 8, my sister Cindy’s birthday, so I wished her a happy birthday with my last treatment.
“You wait 30 days after that, and my PSA count was at 0.6, so we’re going in the right direction. Right now, we’re still watching it pretty closely.”
Returning for the radiation treatments was a setback for Mensen but he’s moving forward with a positive outlook.
“We were convinced — even the doctors — that we’d gotten everything, but a tiny piece had broken off,” Mensen explained. “The biggest thing is to have a positive attitude. I’ve been to St. Jude’s Hospital and have seen kids with cancer.
“I have no right to be discouraged or anything. Keep a positive attitude and you’ll beat it.”
Relay for Life is a nationwide event that raises an estimated $400 million each year. The American Cancer Society uses donations to fund groundbreaking research and to provide free information and services to cancer patients and their caregivers.
“The reason there are so many advancements in the treatments of cancer — like prostate or breast cancer — is because of events like Relay for Life,” added Mensen. “The money used for research is really helpful.”