Twice Michael Hudec has heard the words, “You have cancer.” Both times they sparked feelings of fear and uncertainty, even panic, he said.
The Westlake resident and oral surgeon was the main speaker at the opening ceremonies of the Westlake Relay For Life, held June 11 at the football field at Westlake High School.
During Relay, members of several teams walk laps at the stadium track to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Hudec told Relay participants of battling testicular cancer about 17 years ago, then being diagnosed with kidney cancer about 18 months ago. He had surgery and chemotherapy during his first battle, surgery the second time.
Hudec told of three lessons he learned that helped him get through those battles.
First, he said, one can’t let cancer control one’s life.
“You don’t get to choose cancer, or choose not to have it,” he said. “But you can choose how you let it affect you. You can choose to live fully and completely rather than live in fear.”
Second, support is critical.
“Family and friends are the real therapy,” Hudec said. “They are the ones who hold you when you are so sick you just want to die.”
Thirdly, Hudec said he learned to pray “Thy will be done.” It wasn’t until he relinquished control to God that he could fight the right fight, he said.
Fighting cancer is like facing a great abyss, Hudec said.
“You have to jump into the abyss and say it’s out of your control, and whatever the holy Father wills is what will be,” he said. “By giving up this illusion of control, now you can fight the fight on a more peaceful level.”
Cancer patients become each others’ family, Hudec said, and celebrate each others’ successes and comfort each other in their losses.
Mayor Dennis Clough said nearly everyone has experienced cancer, either themselves or through a family member.
“I think it’s very important for us to continue on our quest to find the cure for this terrible, terrible disease,” the mayor said during his remarks.
This year’s Relay was dedicated to Jane Rogozinski, who died of cancer in November 2008 at the age of 61. Two of her daughters, Casey and Julie, spoke about their mother’s battle with the disease. Throughout her battle, they said, she always had a smile on her face and kept a positive attitude, based on her motto, “Life is good.”
Angie Rogozinski, one of the Westlake Relay’s co-chairs, is Jane’s sister-in-law.
Westlake Relay’s other co-chair, Kathleen Werling, described the 19-hour event as a life-affirming journey symbolizing a day in the life of someone fighting cancer.
“The ACS Relay For Life is a changing event that brings together a diverse group all joining to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and empower individuals and communities to fight back against a disease that takes too much,” she said.
“We have gathered as a community determined that those who are facing cancer will be supported and those who have lost the battle will not be forgotten, and that together we will all continue to fight back,” she continued.
The 11 million cancer survivors across America, including those who took part in the Westlake Relay, are evidence of the progress that has been made in the battle against the disease, Weling said.
“They prove that the progress we’ve made is not just a dream,” she said.
Twenty-one teams raised $22,000 during Relay, publicity chairwoman Stephanie Barger said. Donations can still be made online at the Westlake Relay For Life website.