Local cancer survivor celebrates her victory and continues to fight back against the disease
By Meghan Goldbeck
Jerri Lynn Baker, of Oswego, has become accustomed to calling herself a warrior. But not because of the three-mile race and obstacle course she and her daughter, Halie, will participate in this month. Seven years ago Jerri Lynn was fighting a bigger battle.
In 2004, Jerri Lynn’s mother, Edie, was diagnosed with cancer of the Ampulla of Vater (a cancer found near the pancreas). While the news of her mother’s disease was difficult, it prompted her to have a small lump on her neck examined. A few weeks later, Jerri Lynn herself was diagnosed with Stage IV Head and Neck cancer.
“I couldn’t believe my Mother and I were diagnosed with cancer at the same time. It was devastating, but we believed there was hope. We had to hang on to that little ray of sunshine.”
Jerri Lynn quickly underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, radiation treatments and surgeries. Through much pain and uncertainty, Jerri Lynn and her mother were able to find strength through family, friends, faith and the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. Established in 1986, Relay For Life events are overnight community walks to raise money for the American Cancer Society to help people stay well, get well, find cures and fight back.
“I stood up to make an announcement in my church about Relay For Life,” Jerri Lynn recalled. “I started out by asking cancer survivors to stand, then those who had a loved one with cancer to stand, then those with a friend or co-worker. I had to stop at that point because there were only two people still seated. I see the effect that cancer has had on my church family as we are all waging this battle.”
Edie and Jerri Lynn doubled their effort in the fight against cancer by joining Relay For Life and Team First, a team established by members of their church. Since 2006, Edie’s Team First (later renamed to honor Edie) has been one of the top fundraising teams at the Sandwich event having raised more than $74,000. Members of the team have found creative ways of spreading awareness and raising potentially life-saving funds.
While Jerri Lynn has fully recovered, Edie’s health was slowly failing before the 2011 Relay For Life. Despite her condition, Edie participated in the survivor lap at the event with Jerri Lynn at her side. That August, Edie lost her battle with cancer.
Almost a year later, Jerri Lynn has chosen to continue to be a part of the battle against cancer. Jerri Lynn says that each person diagnosed with cancer and those that fight with them are warriors against the disease.
“Some warriors lose the battle and some continue the fight,” Jerri Lynn said. “But we’re all warriors in the fight against cancer.”
Armored in purple “I Am Hope” t-shirts, Jerri Lynn and the rest of Edie’s Team First will walk through the night next week with hope for the future. They’ll celebrate those in the midst of the fight, remember loved ones who have been lost while pledging to continue the battle. Their war cry is simple, yet powerful; find a cure and bring an end to cancer.
“Here’s hope that I will lose no one else I love or read someone’s obituary stating they died after a long and courageous battle against cancer,” Jerri Lynn said. “I warrior on for that hope. Here’s to the end of it in my lifetime.”
This year’s Relay For Life event will be held at Sandwich High School on June 22 starting at 6 p.m. and ending at 6 a.m. the next morning. So far more than $35,000 has been raised to help find a cure for cancer.
To learn more about how to participate or donate to this year’s event, visit relayforlife.org/lowerfoxil or call 630-879-9009 opt. 3.