Cheryl Schumacher, left, and Linda Hahn-Smith, both of Preston, shared messages as cancer survivors at the Relay for Life's Survivor tea, the first Relay for Life event held last weekend in Preston. Schumacher's daughter, Kristin, could not be present, but also shared thoughts through her mother. (Bluff Country Newspaper Group photo by Lisa Brainard)
Cheryl Schumacher, left, and Linda Hahn-Smith, both of Preston, shared messages as cancer survivors at the Relay for Life's Survivor tea, the first Relay for Life event held last weekend in Preston. Schumacher's daughter, Kristin, could not be present, but also shared thoughts through her mother. (Bluff Country Newspaper Group photo by Lisa Brainard)
Two Preston women shared stories of survival and hope as the Fillmore County Relay for Life kicked off activities last Friday afternoon at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds in Preston.

Cheryl Schumacher spoke first, followed by Linda Hahn-Smith.

Schumacher spoke from a unique perspective in that both she and her daughter, Kristin, were both survivors of cancer.

Kristin - now a child life specialist in Tacoma, Wash. - could not be present, but did share thoughts through her mother. Kristin was diagnosed with cancer in January of 2001, when she was just 13.

After a quick trip to Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester, Cheryl and husband, Dean, found out Kristin could have leukemia or lymphoma. It could be either "ALL," which had a 98 percent recovery rate, or "AML," which "didn't have that great a chance," according to Cheryl.

Kristin had the latter. Cheryl said the family had a great deal of faith and started praying. Also, "The doctor told me, 'As a caregiver you need to be positive all the time. How you look at the cancer is how Kristin will see the cancer. Always be positive.' "

Another time when she looked upset, an older doctor told her, "I've been in this business for a long time. You can be very thankful your daughter is going through this at this time. Five years ago there was not as much research or drugs. Every day and every month we come up with something new."

Cheryl said he put his arm around her and gave her hope. That's one reason for Relay for Life, to raise funds that will help find new drugs in the search for a cure for cancer.

People always visited Kristin, for which she was thankful, since her daughter spent 129 days in a hospital room. There were only five days that someone from the community did not visit. It helped keep a positive attitude.

Cheryl said that at the hospital they worked with a person called a child life specialist as soon as they arrived in the emergency room. Now Kristin has gone into this same career, to help children in similar circumstances. Cheryl stated, "She wouldn't have know about it (without having had cancer.)"

When Kristin had been cancer-free for seven years, Cheryl found a lump. She had a lumpectomy and chemo, always remembering lessons of faith, hope, love and keeping a positive attitude. Kristin came home in a switch of roles: she would now be the caregiver for her mother.

Cheryl said, echoing words that Kristin also stated to her, that the caregiver role is so important. Cheryl said as a caregiver for Kristin, she continuously thought about her daughter, but not about herself or taking care of herself. She found it amazing that Kristin echoed the same thoughts. They both urged people to think of and help caregivers, as well as those who have cancer.

Linda Hahn-Smith

"We want to celebrate survivors," said Linda Hahn-Smith, who said she has a Stage 4 cancer. "We're here to support each other."

She shared her story of six weeks of not feeling well while training for a new job in the Twin Cities. Finally, she had her son take her to the ER, where a "huge tumor" was found in her stomach. Since she had been from Preston, she was urged to return home and go to the Mayo Clinic. That was in March of 2008.

Hahn-Smith said she had a surgery that "removed my female organs and redesigned" that area of her body. Then she was on a platinum-based chemo. It did its job at the time, although she suffered nerve damage to her feet.

She was "pretty good" for 15 months, then it came back in the lymph nodes of her chest and abdomen. Hahn-Smith went back on chemo for 15 months and went off it in March for a rest. A recent doctor appointment showed she should keep on chemo for a little longer.

While Hahn-Smith struggles, she also has an appreciation for life. "I believe you should live life and love life," she stated, noting the beautiful area in which she lives and where she enjoys painting, camping and gardening.

She stated, "You can get through it. You can get through it. You can get through it," like a mantra.

"Have fun," Hahn-Smith smiled in conclusion.

Also speaking were Ann O'Connor and Gary Hahn.