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Survivors support group stepped in to help

Kris Berglund and her daughter Kara battled cancer together; they got a boost from their friends
by: submitted photo, During the survivor’s lap at the 2007 Relay for Life event, Kris, third from left, and Kara, fourth from left, Berglund carried the banner and kicked off the walk. Kris Berglund is speaking at the kickoff event to the Oregon City Relay for Life Saturday morning at the Abernethy Center.

This summer, millions of volunteers will form teams to walk in one of 4,800 Relay for Life events across the country that will raise money to fight cancer.

The relays are the American Cancer Society's largest fundraising event, but for the survivors who walk the first honorary lap, they are more. They are about support, both fiscal and emotional, that friends and family can provide. It's the type of support that helped Kris Berglund fight a brutal battle against a disease that descended on her and her daughter at the same time.

Berglund is the speaker at the kickoff event for the Oregon City Relay for Life Saturday, Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. in the Abernethy Center. She'll also be walking in the Happy Valley Relay for Life

As recently as last year, Kris wasn't in any shape to take part in a 24-hour relay event. In October of 2006, she checked in to Meridian Park Hospital for a planned 90-minute surgery to remove what doctors thought were benign cysts. The surgery lasted six hours and she woke to discover she had advanced ovarian cancer. In one day, the regular runner, whose only hint of illness was a minor backache, went from logging 6-mile runs to being connected to two ports that delivered chemotherapy into her body. She lost weight, lost her hair, vomited daily and developed vertigo.

To make matters worse, seven months into her treatment, Kris's 25-year-old daughter Kara discovered she had Non-Hodgkin's Follicular Lymphoma-a blood cancer that usually occurs inolder adults. Kris received her last chemo treatment on the day Kara received her first.

Kris said both of their blood counts are now normal, and they're recovering. But ask about her illness, and the first thing she mentions is the overwhelming support from her family and friends. Berglund is part of a group of about 18 people who regularly gather for runs. The group snapped into action.

'They made arrangements and each and every day I got in the mail a picture of somebody in my life' holding a sign that read 'you can do it Kris,' she explained. They ranged from family members to everyday people. 'One of them was somebody I worked with, the UPS guy … my dermatologist, my dentist.'

It wound up being six months worth of pictures, flowers every Monday, and even a video that members of Clackamas County Fire District #1 put together. And when Kara was diagnosed, the same group of supporters had shirts made up for the 2007 Relay for Life that read, 'You can do it Kara.'

The Oregon City Relay for Life occurs Friday and Saturday, June 28 and 29, at Clackamas Community College. Event Chair Heather Rike said it is among the fastest expanding relay events in the state, growing by 380 percent from 2006 to 2007. The Oregon City group's goal for 2008 is to have more than 40 teams of eight to 15 walkers, and to raise more than $80,000. In 2007, 61 survivors walked the first lap, and this year, they hope to have more than 80.

For information on the Oregon City Relay for Life, visit www.events.cancer.org/rflorregoncityor. To contact event chair Heather Rike, call 503-318-1477 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .