Declaring the June 1 Marion County Relay for Life a big success, an official reported more than $110,000 was raised by this annual cancer fund-raiser.

Declaring the June 1 Marion County Relay for Life a big success, an official reported more than $110,000 was raised by this annual cancer fund-raiser.

“We had a goal of $108,000 and know we surpassed it. We have more funds to be turned in and will be way over that (goal),” said Kathryn McDaniel, senior community development manager in Missouri with the American Cancer Society.

“I'm really proud of our volunteers,” she added. “They put their heart and soul into their fund-raising efforts.” She reported, “in this year alone, we're funding $6.3 million in research, just in the state of Missouri.”

A big crowd arrived at the Marion County Fairgrounds and Flower City Park in Palmyra on Friday evening for the event. After a free dinner was served to approximately 125 cancer survivors, where each received a T-shirt, the opening ceremonies launched the fund-raiser, followed by the survivors' lap.

Later the survivors' raffle drawing was won by John Meyer, who received four tickets to St. Louis Cardinals games, on dates of his choice. When his name was drawn he was in his car listening to the Cardinals game, McDaniel noted.

A silent auction raised nearly $2,000, she said. A quilt donated by Douglass Community Services was won by Susie Ruhl. Volunteer Dustin Royal of the Hannibal Fire Department manned a dunking booth.

McDaniel reported 500 luminaria were sold to honor a cancer victim or a survivor. At 7:30 p.m. Shelley Buhlig and Allysa Stephens reported they had been sold almost 300, with two hours remaining to buy them.

For the third consecutive year, the three-member Hannibal team won the games' contest, defeating the Palmyra team to keep the traveling trophy, McDaniel reported. Games in this contest were guessing the flavor of jellybeans and Jenga. This year's Relay theme was “Cancer is Not a ˝Game.”

A car show was included in the events, and winners were Scott Boyei, first place and judges' place; Melissa Kolb, second place and People's Choice; and Bud Allen, third place.

Dr. Michael Bukstein, a surgeon with the Hannibal Clinic, has been involved in the Relay for Life for many years and was among the speakers. Earlier he explained the importance of fund-raisers, reporting funds raised go for research, prevention and “ways to deliver health care to cancer survivors.

“You have a one in three chance of developing cancer,” Bukstein said, adding that after being diagnosed, “80-plus percent survive long-term from their cancer.”

He advises people to prevent cancer in several ways, including “use lots of sunscreen, restrict sugar intake,” and be active. “It is all related.”

He also promotes early detection by having tests such as pap smears, mammograms and colonoscopies, adding that colon cancer can be prevented by removing polyps. Earlier that week, he said, it was recommended that people have a colonoscopy at age 45, with no family history, and if so, “10 years before the age of the person who had it.”


Survivors celebrate

60th wedding anniversary


Cancer survivors Gwen and Bob Wilgus were also celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary on June 1. She is a retired teacher and he was a designer with the Missouri Highway Department.

“We had the Lord with us,” Gwen said. “That makes a big difference.” She was diagnosed with uterine cancer “very early” and “surgery took care of it” without any further treatment. Her cancer was discovered during a regular checkup.

Bob had abdominal cancer, and surgery took care of it, too, Gwen said. The couple is thankful for all their years in remission, although Bob has now been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Another survivor who has been in remission for many years was Patricia Gooch, who was diagnosed 20 years ago at age 35. She had carpal tunnel surgery and her surgeon, Dr. Benlee Jolly of Mexico, noticed the lymph nodes in one arm were swollen. Tests revealed she had double breast cancer and a few weeks later she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was treated in Columbia.

“I was told I wouldn't live more than one year,” Gooch said, adding that “miracles happen” and she has been in remission for many years, although at first, “they kept finding more tumors, and I had 31 surgeries.”

She also had radiation and chemotherapy. Throughout her treatment her friend, Marjorie Kenison, helped. “She was my angel,” Gooch said. “She went with me to all my chemos and surgeries.” In about two years Gooch was in remission and has remained cancer-free. She said she had “tremendous faith” and believes thinking positive helped, adding, “Marjorie and I laughed through most of it.”

She is now a corrections officer at the women's prison in Vandalia. A co-worker, Peggy Salois, attended the Relay with her and said, “She's a tough gal, and we're lucky to have her.”

For more about the ACS call 800-227-2345 or see

See photo gallery for more pictures of the Relay For Life.

Reach reporter Bev Darr at