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‘Faith, family and friends’

By Staff | Jun 13, 2014

Jack Swanson

Few dry eyes remained at Johnsen Field as Jody Tuchscherer shared her ongoing story of battling cancer at the 10th annual Pierce County Relay for Life on June 6.

Of the dry eyes, a pair belonged to Tuchscherer herself, a 58-year-old surgical nurse in Rugby with stage 2A invasive ductal carcinoma (a form of breast cancer).

Tuchscherer stood tall and shared her journey to beat cancer, which started with the diagnosis in November. Surgery followed on January 13 and chemotherapy started February 24 and was completed April 24. Radiation began soon after and Tuchscherer completed another round the day of Relay.

“I remember grabbing one of my best friends, Kari, and I hugged her with uncontrollable fear,” Tuchscherer told the crowd of a couple hundred.

Tuchscherer had a bad feeling when she discovered a lump, and the diagnosis on Thanksgiving Day confirmed her fear. A nurse of 38 years (32 in Rugby) she quickly refocused her energy beginning with her attitude.

Jody Tuchscherer, of Rugby, was the honorary speaker at Relay for Life. Tuchscherer is battling a form of breast cancer and completed her ninth round of radiation in Minot before returning to Rugby to make her speech at Relay. Tuchscherer’s husband, Jim, stands behind her. Ashley Burkhartsmeier/PCT

“I decided I wanted to stay positive and embrace those around me who are positive,” Tuchscherer said. “I told my friends and family I wasn’t planning on going anywhere.”

She worked statistics into her speech, like 85 percent of breast cancers occur in women with no family history.

Tuchscherer, whose infectious energy belies the radiation which leaves her physically drained some days, decided she would continue putting her makeup on each morning. With or without makeup Tuchscherer’s beauty is apparent with her glowing smile, confidence and acceptance of her condition.

“A lot of people are very personal about their journey, but I don’t think that’s my calling,” she said a week earlier at the Relay for Life Survivors’ Supper. “Anyone who wants to get on this train with me can. It’s not a death sentence. I’m living and I gather my strength through numbers. If I want to be a victim I can, but I choose not to be. Cancer can’t control my life.”

Tuchscherer emphasized her three Fs: faith, family and friends. Her support is paramount, as cancer isn’t the only thing she’s had to face. Other family tragedies occurred during the early months of her journey, including the unexpected death of her younger sister, Dee.

Cancer survivors make their way through the survivors’ lap at the 10th annual Pierce County Relay for Life at Johnsen Field in Rugby on June 6.

Tuchscherer grew closer to her daughter, Jessica, during the process. Jessica, a hairdresser at La Bella Vita Salon, cut her mom’s hair after it began falling out on Ash Wednesday. A sense of humor hasn’t hurt the family either.

“So I said to the priest, can I give that up for lent?” Tuchscherer said.

Said Jessica: “I knew she would get through this because she’s the strongest person I know.”

Tuchscherer describes her husband, Jim, as her rock and is grateful to hundreds of people in the community who have supported them. Her friends held a hat party for her, and more than 70 hats came through. Some of those hats have already been gifted to other people with cancer.

“I’ve had a wonderful support group with my faith, family and friends,” she said. “It’s been remarkable to live in a small town like this.”

Tuchscherer also has a married son, John, who lives in Dickinson. John and his wife, Jessica, are expecting their first child this fall.

“My first grandbaby I’m adding to my list of what cancer will not and cannot take away from me,” Tuchscherer said.

Swansons celebrate 7th relay with Jack

Countless stories were told at Relay for Life this year and many retold with the happiness of a survivor at the center.

Eight-year-old Jack Swanson was diagnosed with kidney cancer at 14 months. It was a stage 4 cancer, which spread to the then-toddler’s lungs.

“He gets real clingy the week of Relay and almost emotional,” said Jack’s mother, Laura Swanson. “He knows it’s coming. The first year (he participated in Relay) he sprinted. He was just happy to be alive and it showed!”

Jack still has two checkups each year and is supported by the Relay team “Jumpin’ for Jack.” He said it seems a “little sad” when he sees pictures of his younger self, but the support is “really good.”

Relay proves another success

The event raised more than $43,000 with more donations still coming in, according to Relay for Life specialist Laurie Odden. Top teams included Truckin’ for a Cure, which is sponsored by JAT Trucking and Rugby H&R Block, and raised $7,046; Midco Cable, sponsored by Midcontinent Communications, and raised $4,297; Bucket Brigade, sponsored by Rugby Fire Department Auxiliary, and raised $4,173; No Cure Left Behind, sponsored by Tiny Tots Daycare, and raised $3,852; and Chillers, sponsored by Daryl’s Refrigeration, and raised $3,667.

Top individuals fundraisers include Angie Busch with $3,822, Kari Hill with $1,270, Terri Jacobson with $1,216, Tami Ness with $1,043.50 and Skye Woodman with $909.

The free will donation supper was a huge success. First Lutheran Church concessions was a huge success and Fun was had by all!

(In the print edition of this story, Edie Wurgler was misidentified as having wrote the story. The Tribune regrets any and all errors.)

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