Piper Kishpaugh, who was diagnosed with cancer as a 5-year-old, is the special guest speaker for Relay for Life of Umatilla and Morrow Counties.
Now 31, the Pendleton woman is excited about the opportunity to give back. In addition to the emotional support provided by involvement with Relay for Life, Kishpaugh received several scholarships from the American Cancer Society.
“So many people have done things for me,” she said. “It’s a great honor to return the favor.”
Event lead Carol Preston called childhood cancer “the most heartbreaking.” She is looking forward to having Kishpaugh share her story as part of the opening ceremonies.
The relay is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Roy Raley Park, 1205 S.W. Court Ave., Pendleton. Several food trucks will be stationed at the park.
Preston wants to remind people that even though the name includes “Relay,” it’s a walking event. Also, participants don’t have to register in advance.
“You don’t have to come spend the whole day,” Preston said. “Even a few minutes and a few dollars will make a difference.”
Initially experiencing headaches, Kishpaugh’s family thought she had migraines. That progressed to episodes of passing out. In October 1992, an emergency CAT scan due to symptoms of paralysis revealed a tumor. A large cancerous mass was removed near her brain stem, followed by radiation treatments and then chemotherapy to treat medul blastoma.
Although diagnosed as cancer-free when she was about 8 years old, Kishpaugh has residual effects from the treatments that saved her life. A hormone deficiency will require her to take medication for the rest of her life. Also, she sees an endocrinologist every six months and has a brain scan every 12-24 months.
Kishpaugh remembers participating in her first Relay event — still weak from treatments, she only managed to walk a partial lap. Over the years she has walked with others from Jr. Jam, where she’s a dance instructor, and has presented Zumba classes. In addition, a trained beautician, Kishpaugh has also cut hair during the event.
In addition to walking laps, Relay for Life features a free survivor’s meal (11 a.m.), silent auction (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), team booths with fundraising activities, live entertainment by local amateur performers, music with the Severe family (12-1:30 p.m.), yoga with Tania Wildbill (2 p.m.) and Table Talk by local Toastmasters. Also, Pendleton Center for the Arts will host several activities, including Free for All at 9:30 a.m. Stations will have supplies for people to paint rocks and create luminaria bags. The luminaria and closing ceremonies begin at 8:30 p.m.
Preston said in addition to combining area events into one regional Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society has less hands-on involvement. Both changes have resulted in more money going directly to cancer research and to support those battling the disease, rather than administrative costs, Preston said.
“It has been a great change for us as volunteers, we have a little more freedom but have found out how much our support really helped us behind the scenes,” she said.
Contact Community Editor Tammy Malgesini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4539