Torbecks continue leadership for Relay for Life

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By Panzi Blackwell

The purple ribbons displayed about town represent hope for finding a cure and effective treatment in the fight against cancer, all kinds of cancer.

The shape of the ribbons is familiar. While the pink ribbon has long represented breast cancer, the purple ribbon  represents all types of cancer.

Behind this symbol of the battle against cancer are many people, of all ages, all stations and all walks of life, survivors and caregivers, all with the common goal – winning the fight against cancer.

The purple ribbon also represents hope, something which not many years ago a diagnosis of cancer practically eliminated.  The chance of survival was considered slim; leading a normal, fulfilling, productive and healthy life was not even a possibility.

The Relay for Life will be held in Rogier Park in Vandalia, beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and ending with a closing ceremony at 5 a.m. on Sunday.

Now, there are many survivors, the result of much dedicated research, which is continually yielding more knowledge, education, earlier detection, more effective treatment…and hope.

Cancer is losing the battle, but this fight is expensive and requires funds to enable research.

Relay for Life is a means to raise funding for research and treatment, and survivors and caregivers, families and friends realize the importance of supporting it, participating in the walk – and the carnival-like activities – and have fun doing it!

A couple that is a perfect example this are Scott and Karen Torbeck.

Karen is an eight-year survivor of cancer, and after “taking off” for the diagnosis and treatment and recovery, she again leads a normal, very busy and productive life … and has for the past seven years.

They are both passionate about the Relay for Life and its importance in the role it plays, not only the fundraising, but also in bringing people together in a pleasant, beautiful setting, Rogier Park and the walking trail in Vandalia.

Meet Scott and Karen Torbeck as they share their story and their passion for Relay for Life.

“It was in 2002 when Karen was diagnosed with cancer,” Scott said, “and that was the first Relay that we went to. The next year, 2003, we ended up being on the committee, helping to set it up.

“We started with a team from our church, Augsburg Lutheran Church, and it’s blossomed ever since. We co-chaired for two years, and now I’m chairman this year.

“It was eight years (ago) in March,” Karen said about being diagnosed with cancer. “I didn’t really know anything about Relay until I was struck by that awful disease, and we decided to go check it out,” Karen said.

“My parents, Howard and Carol Koester, went with us. They are both also cancer survivors. My mother and I walked the survivor lap together. We just stayed a few hours. I had just had a treatment the week before and I had lost all my hair.”

“She insisted on wearing a wig,” Scott said. “And I got hot, very hot,” Karen said.

“We really enjoyed it, and we both felt that it was something we wanted to get involved in. We got involved the following year, started going to the meetings, were asked to be on a committee and we’re still on there.

“Lisa Tessman was the first one who started the event,” Scott said. “She did it for several years and she did an awesome job. Then she asked us and two other ladies to do the event, so we co-chaired it.

“We made a few changes, but the biggest change was moving it to Rogier Park from the high school track..”

“We ask people to bring lawn chairs, and we move the picnic tables around, so it’s kind of like a big lawn party. One lady told me she liked the green grass in the park, because it reminded her of life,” Scott said.

“The economy has really taken a toll on it the last few years,” Scott said, “with the price of gasoline, people don’t have jobs. We do really good for the county, but the economy is just not there.”

The Purple Survivor Shirt

All the survivors who attend will get a survivor shirt.

“Hope Is Greater” and “2010 American Cancer Society Relay for life” are printed on front of the shirt.

“Celebrating More Birthdays” is printed on back of the shirt. “That is our theme this year,” Karen said. “People who survive get to have more birthdays, and there are more people surviving today than there were 10 years ago. And that is due to more people helping to fight cancer.

“We go out there to raise the money and we have our little thing that we say, ‘EARS’ – E-is for education, A is for advocacy, R-is for research, and S-is for the services, which is like the ‘Reach for Recovery,’ people reaching out to help others if there is a person needing help.

“There are a couple of people (doing that) here in Vandalia. We have our own wig bank. Teresa Powell has wigs there at her salon. People can go in and be fitted,” Karen said.

“Losing my hair was a kick in the stomach for me; that was the worst thing. And we can help others deal with this,” she said.

Karen’s hair grew back and is shiny, thick and natural curly, just like it was before.

A Fulfilling, Normal Life for the Survivor

The Torbecks have two sons: Timothy, age 27, and his wife, Amanda; and Travis, who will be 25 on the day of the Relay.

“They were a lot of help through everything,” Karen said. “They’ve been very supportive and loving, and they will be with us through the whole night of Relay.

Karen has taught Sunday school for 25 years and continues to do so. She also runs Karen’s Korner Day Care for children.

“I have had a daycare for 17 years,” Karen said. “I love my daycare kids and would like to have more.”

Scott works for ADM in Patoka, and when Karen has a doctor’s appointment, his employers let Scott come home to care for the kids. He is on the daycare license.

“They love him,’ Karen said. “When he comes home from work, I cease to exist,” she said, adding that Scott has been teaching Sunday school for about 20 years.

Scott, the Caregiver

“It’s hard on the caregiver, also,” Scott said.

“Typically, I’ll talk to the spouse, the caregiver. I was the caregiver, and you need to see that everything goes on from day to day, bills are paid, etc., keep things going and stay positive, so the survivor can just concentrate on getting better.

“I don’t know the feeling she has, as a survivor, but I know that with the caregiver, you have a lot more concerns and things that you just take care of, because you don’t want your spouse to be concerned,” Scott said.

At this year’s Relay, they are celebrating the caregiver, too. The survivor can buy a luminary for the caregiver, also. They are a different color – purple.

This year, all luminaries are designated “In Honor of.”

Passion for Relay

“The Relay is a passion of ours,” Karen said. “That’s why we do it.

“It’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of time, but we love it. We want to go out and raise the funds, we want to be there for the people.

“We have a lot of people who are still fighting cancer. We have some who lost their battle,” she said.

“We want more people educated about Relay for Life, and we invite everyone to the Relay ­– you don’t have to be a survivor.

“It is like a county fair,” Karen said, describing one of the popular facets of the event. “We have funnel cakes, taco –in-a-bag, sandwiches, kettle (pop) corn, lemon shake-ups,” she said.

Entertainment and activities…

…will be ongoing throughout the event.

Ed Taylor Jr. and Bob Culbertson will perform, Marla Ainscough will sing the national anthem, local Cub Scouts will present the colors and lead in the pledge of allegance, and the Fourgiven quartet and Jamie Nattier will also provide musical entertainment.

Taylor will perform the traditional survivor lap song, which has become an integral part of the event. Composed by Taylor especially for the survivor lap, it remains one of the most moving and reverent parts of the Relay for Life.

Special laps will be walked, such as the pajama lap, crazy hair lap and favorite hat lap, in addition to the more serious laps.