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Join the fight against cancer, have a good time Friday night

Many years ago, when I was Back East, the newspaper I worked at was in an old-fashioned newspaper war with a paper in a neighboring community.

One of the columnists for "the other guys" was a young woman who learned one day that she had cervical cancer.

Many of us would crawl into a corner, fearing the future. Not this woman. She began writing a column periodically on her disease, updating readers in how things were going and how she was feeling as the cancer progressed. She knew all along that the final column would not be a happy one.

John Kelleher

But she brought the community along with her on this journey, teaching people that when you face adversity, the best thing to do is glare at it straight in the eye.

The community rallied around her like nothing I have ever seen. Prayers and offers of support came from all kinds of people — those who had suffered from cancer, had relatives or friends with cancer and those who just cared about another human.

She remained upbeat, even though you could see from the tone of the columns that the disease was taking its toll.

After she died, both newspapers did stories on her death, and reporters at editors, usually skeptical at best or cynical at worst, were in tears.

All of this comes to mind after talking to Eleanor Heydon of Joplin on Havre's Town Square last weekend.

At the Paint It Purple event, she was selling raffle tickets to raise money for her Relay for Life team that will be walking this weekend at Relay's event at Havre High School.

Eleanor started raising money for the fight against cancer more than a decade ago after some friends lost relatives to cancer.

Then seven years ago, she came down with one form of cancer. Eighteen months ago, she got breast cancer.

She has fought back successfully from both. And she's determined to beat cancer to a standstill.

She takes part in every anti-cancer program she can.

She raises money and she raises the morale of people who have just gotten the word that they have cancer.

"If you feel sorry for yourself, you are lost," she said. "You have to have a positive attitude."

"Eleanor has the best attitude of anyone," said her friend, Barb Domire of Rudyard, who lost her husband to cancer 11 years ago.

With friends from elsewhere on the Hi-Line, Eleanor helps prepare breakfasts, bakes cakes and takes part in walks.

She, friends, her children and grandchildren will be at Friday night's Relay for Life at Havre High.

Eleanor's anti-cancer fervor is contagious. Her daughter has three times donated hair to Locks of Love. Just last month, she had nine inches of her hair cut and donated it so wigs can be made for people who lost their hair due to chemotherapy treatment.

People all over Havre are raising money for the Relay this week. It's no surprising to anyone that one of the biggest fund-raisers so far is Bonnie Bennett, who is always on the top of most lists when it comes to good-doers.

If Bonnie or Eleanor asks you to donate this week, you probably won't be able to say no.

But if someone else seeks out funds, you may be tempted to plead hard times. that would be an understandable reaction.

But swallow hard. Give what you can.

And if you have some spare time, stop out this weekend at the Relay.

You will see good people having a good time for a good cause. There will be entertainment, games and a very moving walk around the track that will be lighted by luminaries purchased to honor cancer survivors or people who have died from cancer.

(John Kelleher is managing editor of the Havre Daily News. he can be reached at (406) 265-6795 ext. 17, (406) 390-0798 or at [email protected].)


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