Lisa Black uses cancer journey to help others

Lisa Black’s reason for wanting to participate in this year’s Relay for Life is more personal than for many people. Lisa, who will be conducting the luminary ceremony, has a number of family members who’ve been affected with cancer. But she is also a survivor of cancer herself.

Although this is her first year partaking in Relay for Life, Lisa said she’d been interested before but was never around during the event.

The relay takes place 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday at Lokken Field.

In 2008, Lisa was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She went through chemotherapy treatments last year and is now in remission.

Lisa said the diagnosis changed her perspective on life. “I think when we hear the word cancer, we immediately think death,” she said. “It helps me to value life each day.”

Lisa and her family moved from the Chicago area to Valley City a few years ago and she started work as a nurse manager at the Sheyenne Care Center. She and her husband Jim have four children, two of whom live in Valley City with them.

Although her cancer was slow-growing, Lisa said the diagnosis still reminded her of her immortality.

“We’re not guaranteed any number of days,” Lisa said.

Being the positive thinker that she is, Lisa saw the opportunity to make lemonade out of the lemons that life had given her.

“When I was first diagnosed with cancer, one of the first things I thought was ‘cool, this is going to give me an opportunity to meet a whole new segment of people,’” Lisa said.

Some of the people who helped her along her journey are her family and church friends.

Fellow members of First Baptist Church in Valley City provided her with meals as well as transportation to and from treatment.

When Lisa was still going through treatments, two of her children who still lived in the Chicago area surprised her after her first chemo treatment.

“That was the best medicine ever--having family there,” she said with a smile.

Jim said their family rallied around Lisa and helped her during her treatment, which he said is the biggest physical challenge she’s ever faced.

“Her diagnosis has given her almost a fresh love for life,” Jim said. “Now that she’s in remission she has grown to enjoy some of her hobbies again, like knitting, sewing and crocheting,” he continued.

Lisa first learned about Relay for Life when her son’s band teacher was diagnosed with cancer. He had participated in the event.

Being a part of Relay for Life is a way for Lisa and others to celebrate being a survivor of cancer. Lisa said Relay for Life is a good reminder that cancer is out there.

“Most of us know at least one person who has cancer,” Lisa said, adding that the research that has been done on cancer is huge, but there’s so much more that could be done.

“It just gives us a chance to honor those people who have struggled through it,” she said.

One important part of Relay for Life is the luminary ceremony. Lisa said the ceremony is in honor of anyone who is connected with cancer.

The ceremony starts with a short program around dusk. People line bags around the track at Valley City State University’s Lokken Field and light them. In the past, they’ve always used candles but this year will use glow sticks due to regulations with the new track.

People can decorate or write names on the luminary bags, which are filled with sand so they do not ascend into the sky.

“They’ll stay lit for the rest of the night as people walk around the track,” Lisa explained. She said the reason Relay for Life lasts all night is to remind people that cancer never sleeps.

Participating in Relay for Life isn’t the only way Lisa helps others who’ve been affected by cancer. She said she’s very open about her cancer journey and likes to help those who are struggling with cancer by answering questions and giving advice on what to expect.

She hasn’t been taken up on it yet, but Lisa has even offered to ride with cancer patients to tests and treatments.

“All the poking and prodding can be anxiety producing, and sometimes it’s nice to have a friend hold your hand,” she said.

Relay for Life is an event sponsored by the American Cancer Society, which, according to its website, helps communities across the globe celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost and fight back against the disease. The Barnes County Relay for Life will be held Friday, June 22 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. at Lokken Stadium.