Kincardine Relay for Life raises big bucks for community and cancer research


By Barb McKay

Ted Petter had two special reasons for attending the Kincardine Relay for Life Friday.

Petter, a Kincardine resident, overcame his battle with prostate cancer four years ago and his daughter, Leslie Michielsen, 46, is currently fighting to recover from breast cancer in London.



Sandy Cooper, of Ripley, lights a luminary with her granddaughter, April Dawn Kelly, 2, during the luminary lighting ceremony. (Barb McKay photo)


The family is no stranger to cancer. Michielsen, an athletic director at a London high school, was diagnosed with acute myoblastic leukemia 22 years ago. The diagnosis came just as she was about to be married and she and her husband ended up spending their wedding night in a hospital room at Princess Margaret Hospital, and drank champagne out of bottle that sat on ice inside a bed pan.


Petter and his wife Diane, believe it was their daughter’s sheer will to survive that helped her overcome the cancer that nearly claimed her life.


“For Leslie, there wasn’t an alternative,” Diane said.


Another major reason was the fact that Michielsen’s sister Marnie had the same blood type and was able to donate bone marrow.


This time around Michielsen has undergone a double mastectomy and has been receiving chemotherapy at London Health Sciences Centre. She has about six months of treatment left, but it hasn’t slowed her down much. Last week she played 18 holes of golf.


“She a trooper and survivor,” Ted said.


As for why the family has been able to beat cancer, Ted summed it up simply.


“It wasn’t our time.”


Taking control of her own health saved one young mother’s life.


Nelly King, 35, was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago after she found a lump during a self-breast exam. She went to the emergency department at the Kincardine General Hospital the next day and was told that it was probably just a cyst, but that she should see her family doctor. Her doctor told her that it was likely benign, but that they should run some test just in case. It was two months before she was diagnosed.


“Here I am, all this time, thinking ‘this is nothing,’” King said.


Her doctor told her that cancer cells can spread quickly in young people, so surgery was scheduled right away. King opted for a double mastectomy.


“I wanted to have children and not have to worry about having cancer,” she said.


In January King’s wish came true when she gave birth to her son, Nolan. To this day she still has trouble coming to grips with how she was diagnosed with cancer at such a young age.


“It was shocking for me and for everyone around me,” she said. “It can happen to anyone.

“A lot went through my head in the beginning – why me and what could I have done? It took a while for me to get past that.”


The time she spent in hospital gave her perspective.


“You go to the cancer clinic and you see all the children and I thought, ‘I can do it.’”


King currently volunteers with the Canadian Cancer Society as a peer support volunteer.


*The 5th annual Kincardine Relay for Life was a huge success, according to organizers.


In total, 27 teams signed on for this year’s event, which raised over $66,000. Fifty-five survivors took part in the emotional survivor’s lap at the start of the 12-hour walk at the Davidson Centre track.


Event co-ordinator, Brenda O’Neill said Kincardine is extremely close to reaching its goal.


“The Kincardine event is approaching the $500,000 mark, so by next year they’ll be over that amount,” she said. “So there will be quite a celebration.”


This is the first year that O’Neill has been involved in the event and she was encouraged by the results.

“I’m very pleased,” she said. “To see the commitment of people who walk the track through the night and into the morning. It’s truly inspiring.”