Pam Ackerman remembers passing by a cemetery on her way home after being diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2002 thinking she was as good as dead.
Then she was introduced to American Cancer Society Reach for Recovery volunteers in Lexington, where she lives, who armed her with “information ammunition” leading her to be proactive about treatment and also get involved with Dawson County Relay for Life.
“That was 12 relays ago and each one has given me a truly magical moment that reinforces my commitment to continue to fight back,” she said.
Ackerman, 58, was the speaker at the Adams County Relay for Life kickoff Thursday night at the Blue Moon Coffee Co. Thursday marked 99 days until the 2014 Adams County Relay for Life, which will be 6 p.m. to midnight May 30 at the Hastings High track.
Ackerman had a partial mastectomy followed by radiation treatments every day for seven weeks.
She said she believes when someone battles cancer either personally or as a caregiver, sharing those experiences can benefit other people in a similar situation. A big part of her story is the help she received from the American Cancer Society.
“I wish a lot more people would be willing to share their stories,” Ackerman said. “Everybody’s got a story about it whether you are a survivor, a caregiver or just someone who wants to help their community.”
She especially feels the need to represent the American Cancer Society after being recognized in 2009 as one of 28 Heroes of Hope nationwide. The award honors cancer survivors and caregivers who have had exemplary involvement in Relay for Life, made significant contributions to cancer control and made an impact in the lives of others.
“As a Hero of Hope, I am an ambassador for the American Cancer Society and Relay For Life,” she said. “I enjoy telling my story to others because everyone needs to know help is there. Having cancer is hard; finding help shouldn’t be. Also, the dedicated volunteers and teams who participate in Relay For Life are making a difference right here, right now, in the state of Nebraska and in their communities. I welcome the chance to thank them for their hard work.”
Adams County Relay for Life committee chair Christine Volcek has known Ackerman for several years, meeting her at the Dawson County Relay for Life when Volcek was involved with the Lincoln County Relay for Life.
“She gets me excited,” Volcek said. “She gets me motivated and gets me to do more because she has such a positive spirit about her. Even though she’s been through what she’s been through she still can be happy, excited and involved and I love that.”
Money raised as part of Relay for Life events s fund cancer research and also funds cancer support programs like Reach for Recovery, Road to Recovery and Look Good, Feel Better.
Adams County Relay for Life has a few other events leading up to May 30, including the survivor banquet May 22 and team captain meetings on the second Thursday of each month from March through May.
The campaign goal this year is $60,000. That is an increase from the $53,000 raised in 2013.
This will be the second year that the event will go from 6 p.m. to midnight instead of the previous 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“It worked really well,” Volcek said. “More people got involved and they stayed for the whole event. So that’s our goal. To get as many people there as possible.”
For more information contact Volcek at 308-660-1425.