Sharing a story of hope
Cancer survivor Sandy Fultz is this year’s Ambassador for Relay For Life of Lyon County
MARSHALL — When she was undergoing treatment for cancer, Sandy Fultz said she would try to find positive things to focus on to help her get through. Some of those things included support from her family and community, keeping up with routines like a regular fitness camp, or even wearing Wonder Woman symbols as a reminder of strength.
Now, Fultz said she wants to share her message of hope with others.
“Everybody’s strong is different,” Fultz said. “I think everyone has the strength that they need to get through it.”
Fultz is this year’s Ambassador of Hope for Relay For Life of Lyon County. She’ll be sharing a special message at tonight’s Relay For Life event at the Lyon County fairgrounds. While the COVID-19 pandemic changed the event’s usual plans, Relay For Life will be serving to-go meals at the fairgrounds from 5-7 p.m., and accepting free will donations.
“It is such an honor to be asked,” Fultz said of being this year’s ambassador. Relay For Life helps raise money for the American Cancer Society, which works “tirelessly” to find a cure for cancer, she said. It’s also a trusted source of information for people with cancer.
Fultz said she had supported Relay For Life in the past. But the community support southwest Minnesotans show for their neighbors with cancer took on a new significance in March 2019. Fultz was diagnosed with ovarian cancer — a disease sometimes called “the silent killer,” because many women don’t know they have it, she said.
“I didn’t recognize the symptoms until two weeks before I was diagnosed,” Fultz said. That was when she realized something was wrong besides the effects of aging, she said. Two weeks after her diagnosis, she underwent surgery, and then she went on through six rounds of chemotherapy.
“I was fortunate, I responded well to chemo,” Fultz said. August marked her first year of being in remission.
Fultz said the support she received from her family, medical providers and community made a big difference too.
“For me, it was the community — how fortunate we are to live where we are, and the support we have is just huge,” she said. People in southwest Minnesota and the surrounding region reach out to help each other, she said. “There would not be a day that would go by where someone wouldn’t stop and ask how I was doing, and say they were praying for me.”
At the same time, Fultz also started reaching out to others who have cancer. When she started chemotherapy, Fultz said, “I knew I was going to lose my hair, and that was hard to accept.” She didn’t want to wear wigs, but it was hard to find resources to help figure out how to make scarves and hats work with her clothes. She started a website, Stylin’ Cancer, “As a go-to place, where people could go and see what this is going to look like.”
The site included pictures with outfit ideas, as well as blog posts from Fultz sharing her experiences and offering encouragement.
“Putting myself out there was hard to do,” Fultz said. But it wasn’t long before people responded to her posts.
“If I can just help one person today, that’s all that matters,” she said.
Fultz said there’s been a lot she’s had to adjust to after her diagnosis and treatment. It’s part of a “new normal,” she said.
“You’ve just got to roll with it,” she said. “Some days it’s hard to roll with it, but then you get up the next day and try again.”
Lyon County Relay For Life 2020 event
When: Today, 5-7 p.m.
Where: Lyon County fairgrounds, Marshall
Details: To-go meals will be will be available from 5 to 7 at the fairgrounds. A free will donation will be accepted. Limited seating will be available for those who wish to dine together, and a luminaria path will be available for those who feel comfortable walking.