Health Notes: Minnesota cancer vigil features Superior womanA Superior woman will be a featured speaker Sunday at a PurpleLight vigil in St. Paul to call attention to pancreatic cancer.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
A Superior woman will be a featured speaker Sunday at a PurpleLight vigil in St. Paul to call attention to pancreatic cancer.
Sarah Peterson, 26, will speak at the event that begins at 6:30 p.m. on the south steps of the Minnesota State Capitol as spectators hold purple glow sticks.
At the same time, in Minneapolis, glowing purple lights will line the Interstate 35W bridge.
Peterson, a special education teacher at Nettleton School, is appearing because of her father, Kevin Peterson, also of Superior, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on July 1, 2011. The senior Peterson is a board member of Grandma’s Marathon, and the father and daughter were profiled just before this year’s marathon in a June 13 News Tribune story.
When Kevin Peterson, 54, was diagnosed, his cancer was Stage 4 and inoperable. Doctors told him he had about three to six months to live, Sarah Peterson recounted.
She had run half-marathons but never a full marathon, so she gave her dad a birthday card that July with a note saying she would run the full marathon this year, and she wanted him to meet her at the finish line.
He did, and she was able to tell him she had teamed up with other runners to raise $31,000 to fight pancreatic cancer.
Recently engaged, Sarah Peterson and her fiancé moved their wedding date up from next spring to December.
“Another important thing that you want your dad to be at is to walk you down the aisle,” she said.
Kevin Peterson, who was among the founders of Grandma’s Marathon, underwent 11 months of chemotherapy and the tumor had gotten smaller, Sarah Peterson said. But after a month off chemo, the tumor was starting to grow again, and he will go back on the treatment starting Friday.
Sarah Peterson said she’s comfortable talking to children, but Sunday’s audience will be a bit different.
“It’ll be dark, so that’s nice,” she said, laughing. More seriously, she added, “I think that this is easier because I can talk about it because I’ve lived it. It’s my story of my life for the past 14 months of dealing with this.”
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading form of cancer in the United States and the only major form of cancer with a five-year survival rate in the single digits, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, which sponsors the PurpleLight event.
Sunday’s event is one of 60 vigils across the country. If you want to come and reserve a purple glow stick to hold, you can register at www.purplelight.org.