Cancer survivor to offer hope to benefit Relay for Life

Debbie Hermanson will offer a story of hope and inspiration, with a courageous belief that life is a blessing even if a chapter of it brings hardship, at the Isanti County Relay for Life event.

Hermanson is a cancer survivor who will be recognized at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Isanti County benefit Aug. 9. Events begin at 5 p.m. at the Isanti County Fairgrounds in Cambridge with the survivor reception. Proceeds generated will further the American Cancer Society’s cause of finding cures for cancer.

As a 21-year survivor of colon cancer, Hermanson is passionate about rallying community support for a cause that affects individuals and families from all walks of life. She encourages local community members to come out and do what they can to help fight the impact of cancer.

“We need to support this; we need the research. We need to keep going,” Hermanson said.

From 5 p.m. to 4 a.m., supporters can demonstrate their commitment by participating in the silent auction beginning at 5 p.m. and the late night activities starting at 10 p.m. Activities will offer participants a variety of fundraising opportunities hosted by registered teams who are aiming to further their efforts to help save lives. By candlelight at dusk, the luminaria ceremony will remember and recognize cancer survivors and those who lost their battles to the disease.

Hermanson said she feels fortunate to have survived a disease that has impacted her family. He father died of colon cancer at the age of 29, and at the age of 2, Hermanson began her own battle with hereditary polyps.

At age 6, Hermanson had her first surgery to correct bleeding and to remove polyps from her colon. She was the first in medical history to have ever undergone a colon surgery in which doctors left a part of her colon instead of removing it in her entirety, she said.

“I was a miracle,” Hermanson said.

It wasn’t until several years later that Hermanson would receive a diagnosis that she had cancer.

“I was a young adult that didn’t go in when I was supposed to,” Hermanson explained. “I was going to adopt our first child, and I wanted to make sure I was healthy. It had just started, and he (the doctor) said if I would have come six months before, it wouldn’t have been there, and six months to a year later, it would have been too late.”

Hermanson reiterates an often common theme that time is of the essence when it comes to cancer screening, detection and effective treatment. In her case, early detection made a huge difference for her cancer treatment and her survival of the disease.

Hermanson also encourages people to seek out second opinions if they believe they may have been misdiagnosed. It was not until his cancer was full-blown that Hermanson’s father received an answer to his medical struggles.

“They had no clue until they did surgery. They gave (my father) six months, but he lived two years,” said Hermanson, whose father demanded further medical assessment after a long struggle with symptoms but no cancer diagnosis.

As a cancer survivor and a child to a parent who succumbed to the disease, Hermanson views the community as an integral part of building a support network for people who are challenged by cancer and aiding to help eradicate the disease.

“In my case, the cancer was caught right away, I didn’t have to go through (chemotherapy) or any of that, but I watch people who do and they really need the support,” Hermanson said.

Advancements and options for treatments are far more numerous than when Hermanson and her father forged their battles with cancer. These advancements have come as a result of medical research and developments that have been funded by the persistent and committed efforts of groups like the American Cancer Society and the individuals who support them.

Sixteen teams and 148 participants have already raised more than $18,000 for Relay for Life of Isanti County.

“People need to rally support behind those efforts because it’s hard to do it on their own,” Hermanson said.

Hermanson views life as a walk down a pathway, a journey of faith. She and her husband Duane have been foster parents to more than 40 children and adopted three children of their own. She values the simple things in life and enjoys being a leader of the Sugar Maple Kids 4-H Club, traveling and crafts.

“You have to embrace what you have and you don’t always have to seek so much. It’s not the wealth, it’s what do you do now, what do you do with what you have,” Hermanson said.

Hermanson’s story is just one of many that have been impacted by cancer, but she knows that with the help and compassion of others, many stories can be filled with victory over the trials and devastation of cancer and offer hope and cures for years to come.

“Relay for Life lifts people up,” Hermanson said. “I know people who didn’t want to go out there and they did, and they are just crying by the time they come around from all the people cheering for them.”

For more information about Relay for Life of Isanti County, visit RelayForLife.org/IsantiMN.

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