Lorly Schik, Ken Rimpila chosen as Relay for Life Honorary Co-chairs
Ken Rimpila of New York Mills and Delores (Lorly) Schik have consented to be the 2008 Honorary Co-chairpersons for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.
Although Lorly and Ken represent different communities, pastimes, and cancer stories, they are in many important ways similar. Both are long-term cancer survivors. They are optimistic people, looking forward to a world less afflicted with cancer - and have been dedicated to erasing the disease. Each of them has a cancer message for all of the citizens of East Otter Tail County, and both see that being an honorary co-chair can give them a platform to promote their cancer messages.
If any survivor typifies hope in surviving cancer and prospering in spite of it, it is Lorly Schik. Now an active 83-year-old woman who retains a zest for life, she is a 48 year cancer survivor. She beat melanoma of the eye, a very serious cancer. She also survived uterine cancer 41 years ago and has had cancerous growths removed from her arm. Since the melanoma, she has raised a family (she has 3 children, 5 grandchildren and a great-grandchild), had a long, successful career as a kindergarten teacher, finished her college degree, and retains an active interest in community life. She, like Ken Rimpila, has been a part of every Relay since its inception in 1995.
Lorly accepted the nomination for 2008 Honorary Co-chairperson with one purpose in mind: to increase public awareness of increasing incidences of melanoma (skin cancer), its dangers, and the importance of early detection and prevention.
"People must know about the danger," she say. "One bad sunburn can lead to cancer later. I am fair-skinned and was outside a lot as a girl. I remember at least two bad sunburns. I ended up with melanoma of the eye and have had several cancers on my arm that I am sure were sun-related."
Lorly urges us to be vigilant. She says, "Check things out. Do not let suspicious moles or changes in skin coloration or growths go untreated." She also recommends doing some simple things to avoid skin cancers. "Stay away from prolonged exposure to the sun without protection," she counsels. "Be careful of sunburn. Use sunscreen and apply it at least one-half hour before going out into the sun. Put sunglasses on your children. Lotions lose potency over the winter, so start with a fresh bottle or tube each year." Like many others, Lorly is concerned about excessive use of tanning booths, particularly among young persons. Recent data suggests that the tanning habit can and does lead to increases in skin cancer.
Ken Rimpila is a retired farmer, father of 3 children and grandfather of 8. He will turn 80 years old in July. For an interview to prepare this article, I had lunch with Ken at the cafe in New York Mills. He is a cheerful, optimistic person with a great disposition. He knew everyone in the restaurant and greeted everyone by name. Cancer (he has also survived serious heart problems and lives with diabetes) has not dulled his interest in people and the world around him.
Like Lorly's, Ken's cancer story is inspiring. It began in 1992 when what he thought was simply heartburn turned out to be colon cancer. Dr. Rand Stolee, who was new to Perham at that time, performed successful surgery which was followed by chemotherapy. Ken was fortunate, as the chemo did not make him sick, cause him to lose his hair or dull his appetite. He has now been cancer-free for 16 years. Ironically, Ken lost his wife to colon cancer in 2002. Her cancer was advanced and she lived only a short time after its diagnosis.
It's not surprising that Ken advocates regular colon cancer screening for everyone, particularly those with family histories of colon cancer. "Everyone should be tested - with a colonoscopy, if necessary," Ken states. "Catching it early is so important."
Ken Rimpila also feels it's important for a local cancer support group to exist. "We need this," he says. "We need to know each other, to talk, to help each other."
When he was first treated for cancer, there was a local group of 20-25 survivors who met regularly, then the group slowly dwindled away. The good news is that a new support group has formed. Anyone who has had cancer or is being treated for cancer now can join the group. As one would expect, Ken has joined the group and enthusiastically looks forward to its continued growth. "We meet every second Tuesday of the month at Perham Memorial Home," he adds. "Come and join us."
Ken's involvement with the Relay for Life goes back to the beginning. He organized a team of family members and neighbors. The Relay was small then, only seven or eight teams, but their efforts led to the still-growing successful Relay it is today. His team continued for several years, growing as the Relay grew. His positive outlook, passionate commitment to the fight against cancer and his faith that if we work together, we can conquer cancer represents well all those who invest so much time and energy to produce the East Otter Tail Relay for Life.
The message of hope is clear in Lorly Schik's and Ken Rimpila's stories. Together, they represent 64 years of survivorship. They survived, thanks to early detection and effective medical care, and they continue to lead productive, healthy lives. They have clear messages for the public: be aware of the danger of cancer, live a healthy lifestyle, and help others who are dealing with cancer. Meet them at the Survivors' Banquet at Mulligan's Restaurant on Monday, July 7 and plan to join them at the 2008 Relay for Life on Friday, July 11.