Ginny Schaper, this year’s Merrill Relay for Life Hero of Hope, has seen the impact of cancer, both as a survivor and a caregiver.
Ginny is celebrating her 45th anniversary of surviving her first battle with cancer, and her 26th anniversary of surviving her second battle. She has lost her husband, both her parents, and three of her grandparents to cancer.
“Every kind of cancer you can think of, we’ve had,” she said.
The way Ginny sees it, you can either be defeated by cancer or you can take it on with a positive attitude. She has always preferred the latter approach, for which a sense of humor is essential.
“Cancer changes a lot of things in your life,” she said. “A sense of humor is something that takes you through a lot. People go through all kinds of trauma in life. If you try to look at the upside of things, you’re going to survive a lot better.”
Even though countless surgeries to remove cancer have left her body in somewhat less than original condition, Ginny appreciates the life she has.
“Being a survivor is being given a second chance,” she said. “I do a lot of volunteer work and I’m always good at giving free advice.”
One piece of advice she often freely gives is this: “I tell people if something is not feeling right in your body, go to your doctor. The key to being a survivor is early detection.”
Ginny was a young mother when she was first diagnosed with cancer. Caring for her children was powerful motivation to get past the cancer and on with life.
Surviving her own cancer was easy compared to being a caregiver, she said. Ginny’s husband, Howard, passed away in 2011 following a four-year battle with the disease.
“I think that being a caregiver is a lot harder than being a cancer patient,” Ginny said.
Ginny is an avid volunteer, lending her time to the Foster Grandparents program at Lincoln Hills, Relay for Life, the Eagle’s Club, Gleason Lions and her bowling association. She still bowls three times and week and leaves motivational messages for herself around the house.
“Cancer doesn’t have to ruin your life,” she said. “Challenges in life are what give us the strength to go on.”
Ginny has been involved with the Merrill Relay for Life for 10 years and was honored when asked to be this year’s Hero of Hope.
Relay for Life events are held worldwide to benefit the American Cancer Society. Teams of walkers take turns walking around the track from Friday evening through Saturday morning.
“The thing is cancer never sleeps, so we shouldn’t either,” Ginny said.
The money raised through Relay for Life goes toward research and support for cancer patients and their families. Ginny also enjoys the camaraderie of the event.
“Some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life are people I met through Relay,” she said.
The Relay for Life honors cancer survivors, caregivers and those who have lost their battles with the disease.
Ginny is part of a committee that plans almost year-round for the event.
“A lot of work goes into putting this event together,” she said.
Merrill’s Relay for Life will be held this Friday at Lincoln County Fairgrounds, starting at 6 p.m. The opening ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday night. The luminaria ceremony will take place at 10 p.m. Raffle drawings will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 3.
Teams of people camp out overnight, walking laps on a track, socializing, and participating in planned activities. Teams can be made up of family, friends, co-workers or community groups. For more information on Relay For Life, contact either of the Volunteer Committee Chairpersons, Teri Chladek at 507-272-0206, or Nikki Williams 715-212-0543.
The American Cancer Society is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. For information about cancer, call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 1-800-ACS-2345 or log onto www.cancer.org.