A little more than two years after her diagnosis with breast cancer, Montague's Stefanie Linsley is putting all her passion into helping others who find themselves in the same difficult position she was. She's been instrumental in organizing this year's Relay for Life, scheduled for this weekend at the fairgrounds in Yreka.

By Skye Kinkade

A little more than two years after her diagnosis with breast cancer, Montague’s Stefanie Linsley is putting all her passion into helping others who find themselves in the same difficult position she was.

Linsley, a 41 year old wife and mother, is one of about 15 people organizing the 2013 Relay for Life, which raises funds for the American Cancer Society. The 24-hour event is scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. on July 20 to 9 a.m. the 21st at the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds in Yreka. Everyone in the community, cancer survivor or not, is invited to attend.

Linsley is the Siskiyou Relay Committee’s Survivor co-chair, Team Captain of “The Rack Pack” and the American Cancer Society’s “Hero of Hope” for this region.

“I’m very dedicated,” Linsley said Friday afternoon as she told her story. “The Relay means a lot to me.”

It was five days after her 39th birthday, on April 5, 2011, when Linsley was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. To battle the disease, she underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation.

Linsley drove to Medford every other week for treatments, which caused her to lose her blond hair, but she only felt exceptionally sick in the final weeks of her treatments.

Today, Linsley is cancer free. She credits the support of her husband, Brian; their daughter, Jordan, who was seven at the time; and her parents as being instrumental in her recovery.

After her startling diagnosis, Linsley said she called the American Cancer Society, which helped her “financially and mentally,” particularly through the Reach to Recovery program, which put her in touch with another woman about her age who had battled breast cancer.

“It’s nice to talk to someone who knows what you’re going through,” Linsley said.

The ACS also helped her with gas cards for traveling to appointments and treatments and helped with the costs of lodging when she was away from home.

Linsley first participated in Relay for Life last year, and her family and friends rallied around her to form The Rack Pack team.

She was later asked to become a Hero of Hope, which trained her to become an ambassador of the American Cancer Society. She speaks at different functions and events to help people understand Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society in general, she said.

“We also try to offer hope to new patients,” Linsley said. Because of her knowledge and experience, she’s also been contacted by nurses at Fairchild Medical Center wondering if she’ll speak with other young women diagnosed with cancer, much like the woman she spoke with through the Reach for Recovery program.

2013 Relay for Life

This year’s Relay will begin with an opening ceremony at 9 a.m. sharp on Saturday. That will be followed by a Survivor Lap, a Caregiver Lap, and a Team Lap.

For the next 24 hours, at least one member of the 18 registered teams will walk around the fairground “midway” to symbolize that cancer never sleeps.

Performing at the opening ceremony will be Mike Vasquez, a country singer from the Redding area who has auditioned for The Voice. Vasquez and other acts will provide musical entertainment throughout the night, Linsley said.

In years past, the Relay has been held at the College of the Siskiyous track in Weed, but Linsley said the fairgrounds is a perfect place for the event because it has plenty of space for people to camp, power hookups, lighting and shade.

Dinner for participants will be catered by Siskiyou Development.

After dark falls, the traditional luminaria ceremony will provide a chance for people to remember those lost and honor those who have beat or are currently fighting cancer.

The night will be lit by hundreds of candles inside paper bags, each decorated with the name of a loved one.

Movies will be shown at midnight and there will be several contests this year, including prizes for best decorations, best superhero costume, and craziest wig, Linsley said. Steve Hunt will be providing DJ services.

The Lane Street Ladies team is coordinating the activities, said Linsley.

New this year is a Memory Garden, which encourages those who have lost a loved one to write a message to that person, which is then hung on a tree, donated to the cause by the Forest Service. After the event, they are welcome to take the tree home and plant it as a living memorial.

The Rack Pack and the Tree House are providing a complimentary breakfast to participants Sunday morning, and the event will end with a closing ceremony at 9 a.m.

Survivor “VIP” parking will be available near the fairground entrance. Look for the driveway lined with birthday candles, Linsley said.

Teams signed up to participate in this year’s Relay are: Paesani E Famiglia, The Rack Pack, Big Springs Relay Recess, Fighters for the Cure, Catch US If You Can, Team Dylan, Crazy 4 the Cause, Racing Memories, SMG Weed, Scott Valley Bank (SVBees), Lane Street Ladies, Siskiyou Justice League, Rainbow Rascals – Every Color Needs a Cure!, Team STRMC, Anything for Granny, Rotary Rocks Cancer, Team Terry and Explorer POST 911.

Last year’s event raised approximately $38,000 which went to fund cancer research, patient support, prevention education, detection and treatment through the American Cancer Society.

To learn more about Siskiyou County Relay for Life, to donate to a team, or sign up to participate, go to www.relayforlife.org/siskiyoucountyca