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Kalnajs’ story proves Relay for Life’s value

Lila Kalnajs' family includes son-in-law Ryan Galloway, from left, Lila, son Kon Kalnajs, Kon's fiancee Jenny Woyak, daughter Maija Kalnajs Galloway and, in front, granddaughter Zane Galloway. Both rescued, their pets are Wendy, a white greyhound, and Marty, a tan Viszla. Not shown is Lila's husband, Andrejs Kalnajs. CONTRIBUTED
Lila Kalnajs’ family includes son-in-law Ryan Galloway, from left, Lila, son Kon Kalnajs, Kon’s fiancee Jenny Woyak, daughter Maija Kalnajs Galloway and, in front, granddaughter Zane Galloway. Both rescued, their pets are Wendy, a white greyhound, and Marty, a tan Viszla. Not shown is Lila’s husband, Andrejs Kalnajs. CONTRIBUTED

MADISON – Cancer affects everyone, whether as an actual patient, a husband, child, friend or caregiver. Relay for Life of Madison will heighten awareness to progress and needed research for the disease.

“The annual Relay for Life is a family event with entertainment, food and poignant ceremonies with luminaries at dusk, survivor laps and families walking the track and honoring those they know who have battled cancer,” logistics co-lead Steve Gordon said. Kelly Nielsen is serving as 2016 event lead.

On May 14, Relay for Life of Madison will open with the Survivors’ Reception at 4 p.m. in Madison City Schools Stadium. Event hours are 5 to 11 p.m.

One relay volunteer, Lila Kalnajs has shared her personal perspective as a cancer survivor.

Kalnjas challenges everyone to “think about what happens when your life at times seems to no longer be your own. In October, 2013, I had a routine chest X-ray as part of my annual physical for work.”

Still on crutches from foot surgery, Kalnajs “hobbled in when the clinic requested I come back in. Someone handed me a report in the lobby — no private talk, nothing. I sat alone in the lobby and read the results marked with a note (from) a physician: ‘She needs to see her attending as soon as possible.’ There was a large mass in my upper left lung.”

Kalnajs was “paralyzed. This has to be a mistake. I was fit, exercised regularly, worked 14-hour days, no weight loss, no excessive coughing. I love my husband and family with all my heart but I sure wasn’t going to worry them. I had a CT scan the next day and it was confirmed.”

“The mass was real,” Kalnajs said.

The next day, she managed to tell her husband Andrejs. “From that moment, Andrejs was my stronghold, lover, friend, caretaker, partner in every way. There are no words to express how much he meant to me during the next eight  months,” Lila said.

The next three weeks were a “medical roller-coaster ride. My motto would become, ‘I have cancer; it does not have me,'” Lila said.

“Relentless fatigue was a hallmark. I just made myself keep (exercising) … a walking routine daily. I refused to let cancer take over all my life,” she said. “After the ‘All Clear,’ loudly declaring cancer survivor, I began to work out diligently and added crossfit to my exercise classes.”

Lila learned “pain is temporary but giving up is forever.”

Her latest scan revealed a small, new nodule (6 mm) in lower lung — too small to determine if cancerous. Lila will have another scan in late May.

“Life, by its name, is positive,” Lila said. “If we can all live more in the moment, we will see the beauty and splendor for what it is.”

For more information, visit Facebook/Relay for Life of Madison.

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