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Relay a celebration for breast cancer survivor PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

Every day, every month and every birthday is a celebration for cancer and polio survivor Rosalyn Detwiler—and it’s evident from the joy on her face she enjoys every second of life.

“I don’t want it to get me down,” she said. “I take one day at a time and praise the Lord I had the strength to get out of bed.”

There’s no missing Detwiler’s excitement for this year’s Phillips County Relay For Life set to take place Friday-Saturday, June 10-11.

“It’s an opportunity to show people you can beat cancer,” said Detwiler who has lived in Holyoke for 11 years and has attended Relay every chance she got.

Having faced polio, breast cancer and spinal surgery, the releasing of balloons at last year’s Relay
For Life is a huge celebration for Rosalyn Detwiler—a symbol of her joy and delight in life as well as
her freedom from the many hardships she has overcome.           —Enterprise file photo

The annual event is a special time for Detwiler—a time for her to celebrate her own battle with cancer as well as a time to see other people’s progress, the people who came through cancer with “flying colors.”

“They don’t give up,” she said, adding it’s so neat how the Phillips County communities support cancer survivors.

“I am so shocked that cancer is everywhere,” she said. “Each year it’s more and more.”

Joining Detwiler in the Relay For Life celebration last year was her son Terry, his wife Kaylene and their four daughters Hannah, Rachel, Sarah and Rebecca.

Detwiler is such a strong supporter of the event because she wants everybody to have the same chance at beating cancer as she did.

“It would sure be a lifesaver,” she said, if someone could find a cure for cancer.

God gives strength to overcome

Detwiler has faced health issues almost her whole life, and her “don’t give up” attitude certainly has gotten her through those obstacles.

As a 13-year-old girl, Detwiler faced polio. She laughed as she recalled the story when she tried to get out of the hospital bed and walk, only to find herself falling flat on her face.

“I surprised people when I walked out of the hospital six months later,” she said.

“I wasn’t supposed to walk again, but God let me walk again.”

Detwiler’s battle with cancer began when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1983. “It was kind of a shock,” she said, noting she had no family history of breast cancer.

Her 41st birthday is one she’ll never forget, spending the day in surgery in the hospital. She smiled, though, remembering how her son came to the hospital that day to play the accordion for her and all the hospital staff who rushed to her room to hear.

In addition to the surgery, Detwiler endured 29 cobalt treatments to zap the cancer. She explained this type of treatment uses the full dose of cobalt, making it much stronger than the treatments they use today. She ended up with burns on her shoulder and neck and lost some teeth because of the treatments.

Detwiler and her husband were living on a farm outside of Big Springs, Neb. when she was diagnosed with cancer. She said she was one of nine ladies from the area who all faced cancer at the same time, and out of those nine she was the only one who survived.

“God was watching over me,” she said.

Breast cancer survivor Rosalyn Detwiler embraces the Relay
For Life experience as she makes her way around the track
with her granddaughter last summer. She says Relay is an
opportunity for cancer survivors to show people they can
beat cancer, so she’s excited for this year’s event, scheduled
for June 10-11.       —Enterprise file photo 

Her next obstacle came six years later when she went through spinal surgery in 1989. “I wasn’t supposed to make it,” she said. “But God gave me the strength to pull through.”

So after facing polio, breast cancer and spinal surgery, what else could there be?

Two years ago Detwiler had another scare when a lump was found on her other breast. The good news was it wasn’t cancer. The bad news was Detwiler ended up with a bad infection after surgery to remove the lump.

“At least I’m still alive,” she said, recalling the long, drawn-out process of the infection.

Since Detwiler had been wearing prosthesis since her cancer in 1983, she decided it was time for reconstruction surgery.

“I felt so funny being flat chested—I didn’t feel like a woman I guess,” she said. “Now I feel like a woman again.”

All in all, Detwiler has not let her health struggles keep her down. “I just keep going,” she said.

This Holyoke resident loves getting outside to garden as well as singing with the praise team at First Baptist Church. She enjoys her eight grandkids as well as reading, quilting and making jewelry.

In addition to her anticipation for Relay For Life in June, Detwiler is excited for July when she will travel to Mt. Gilead, Ohio for her 50th class reunion.