A week before Christmas 1999, Dr. Steve Bardolph, an orthopedic surgeon at Northern Orthopedics in Brainerd, received devastating news.
Bardolph, a longtime Brainerd physician, was told that the cancerous mass he discovered on his left calf would likely require that his leg be amputated at the knee.
"I told them to please wait for my amputation until after Christmas," recalled Bardolph.
The tumor, about one-and-a-half times the size of a chicken egg, was diagnosed as malignant fibrous histiocytoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Fortunately, about a week later Bardolph's physicians at the Mayo Clinic concluded that an amputation was not necessary.
Bardolph underwent four months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation at the Mayo Clinic. He lost his hair from the chemotherapy and was unable to work for four months because he was too weak. On May 11, doctors removed the tumor from his leg. Two weeks ago, Bardolph was able to walk comfortably again after recovering from the surgery.
Now using his two healthy and cancer-free legs, Bardolph plans to walk as a cancer survivor in Relay For Life, a fund-raising event sponsored by the American Cancer Society. He has been selected as honorary chairperson of the eighth annual Brainerd event, held from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. July 28 at Don Adamson Field at Brainerd High School. Northern Orthopedics has already raised $2,000 for Relay For Life. Bardolph, and his wife, Kathryn, will walk with his colleagues at the event.
Relay For Life involves relay teams, sponsored by businesses or individuals, who volunteer to walk throughout the night to raise money for cancer research and for local cancer support programs. Luminaries, sold for $5, are lighted around the track to honor family members and friends who have survived cancer and those who have lost their battle against the deadly disease.
Relay For Life will begin with a kick-off event at 7 p.m. July 28 and the lighting of the luminaries will begin at 10 p.m. Entertainment includes performances by Upper South, the Harmony Engineers and the Praise Lakes Band. A children's corner will include games and activities for children. It will also give them an opportunity to learn more about cancer. In the past, the youngest cancer survivor to walk in the Brainerd Relay For Life was age 6.
Kathy Buxton, East Gull Lake, is a four-year breast cancer survivor. She and her husband Bruce are serving as co-chairs for Relay for Life on July 28. (Dispatch Photos by Steve Kohls)
Kathy Buxton, who co-chairs the July 28 event with her husband Bruce, said last year 34 teams raised $89,000. So far 58 teams have signed up for this year's event. Organizers hope to raise $100,000 this year. About 5,000-8,000 luminaries are expected to be sponsored and lighted at next week's event, said Buxton.
Buxton is a four-year breast cancer survivor. She became active in the American Cancer Society as a result of her battle against breast cancer and continues to stay involved with local cancer support programs in an effort to reach out to others who need the support she, too, at one time needed.
Bardolph said his recent battle with cancer has likely made him a better doctor. He now knows what it feels like to struggle emotionally with a cancer diagnosis, which has made him more empathetic toward his patients.
"When you go through it and get that support it makes you want to reach out to others," said Bardolph. "I think it's put a lot of things into perspective. Certain things have become more important, like my faith, my family and my friends. I'm honored they've chosen me to do this."
For more information on becoming involved with Relay For Life, contact Buxton at 829-6205.
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