‘Team up against cancer:’ MFL MarMac holds awareness event

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Following a Friday morning assembly that featured teacher and Hodgkins Lymphoma survivor Adam Simon as the key speaker, students and staff headed outside, where, with the sun shining down upon them, they released balloons into the clear, blue sky. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

MFL MarMac High School students and staff wore “team up against cancer” shirts Friday as part of a two-day cancer awareness event Jan. 15-16. Each person selected a cancer awareness color that meant something to them personally.

MFL MarMac High School social studies teacher and Hodgkins Lymphoma survivor Adam Simon was the featured speaker at the cancer awareness assembly.

Student Emily Hanson "gets the chop" at the cancer awareness assembly. She and teacher Anne Wuebker donated locks of their hair to the non-profit organization Children with Hair Loss, which makes wigs for girls.

Hanson feels up her shorter 'do.

Teacher Anne Wuebker starts to get her hair cut off my Becky Monroe.

Wuebker checks out the locks that will be donated.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

MFL MarMac held another successful cancer awareness event last week, as students, staff and community members came together to “team up against cancer.”

The event kicked off Jan. 15 with the home wrestling meet versus Turkey Valley and Clayton Ridge. It continued Friday morning with an assembly organized by the high school student council, featuring high school social studies teacher and Hodgkins Lymphoma survivor Adam Simon as the key speaker.

Student council president Jillian Haberichter, who battled leukemia when she was a child, welcomed staff and students who were decked out in colorful awareness shirts that boasted the saying “team up against cancer.” Each person selected a cancer awareness color that meant something to them personally. Students received the shirts free courtesy of the FFA.

“Just take a look around at the many colors,” Haberichter said to the audience, asking them to note how cancer has affected many people in many ways.

The variety of colors—which ranged from pink for breast cancer and white for lung cancer to blue for prostate cancer and teal for ovarian cancer—was also noted by Simon when he got up to speak.

“It’s great to see all the different colors,” he said, mentioning the conversations he had with students about why they chose to raise awareness for a specific cancer. 

Simon remarked how, before being diagnosed himself, he didn’t really know anyone in his family who had battled cancer. He even termed himself the “cancer pioneer” of his family.

“I come here not as a teacher or faculty member, but as a survivor,” continued Simon, who added that his Hodgkins Lymphoma has been in remission for nine months.

His battle first began in the spring of 2013, when Simon was 34, preparing to get married and purchase a home. Alerting those in attendance to the importance of early detection, he admitted he didn’t take warning signs as seriously as he should have. 

“I thought nothing of it,” Simon said of the lumps that developed on his throat, paired with chest pain and sweating. “I was getting married. I thought it was normal,” he continued, his sense of humor showing through.

When he developed dry skin spots, he chalked it up to possibly ring worm, picked up from working out in the weight room.

After getting married in June 2013, Simon, accompanied by his wife, Ashley, made the trek to La Crosse, where he was diagnosed. In the months that followed, Simon went through chemotherapy and then radiation. 

“Surprisingly, I didn’t lose any more hair than normal,” Simon joked of the process. “I guess it was a joke from God that I was already losing enough.”

Missing school was tough, though, Simon said. For the first time, he wasn’t there for football camp and homecoming. He even missed complaints from students.

“I just wanted things to get back to normal,” he said.

He credited Ashley for her support through it all.

“We had doctor’s appointments. We had radiation. We had chemotherapy. We had cancer,” he said, stressing how cancer affects not only the person diagnosed, but family and friends as well.

“People said ‘It couldn’t come at a worse time,’” Simon said regarding the diagnosis on the heels of his new marriage. “But when is cancer fair?

“Bad things are going to happen in life. Don’t let them ruin your life or define your story. I was not going to let it ruin who I am. I was not going to be a label or poster child.”

Now in remission, Simon said he feels lucky, as others have it worse. He was also thankful for the relationships he developed, the help he could offer others going through similar circumstances.

The letters, thoughts and prayers sent by school staff and students, as well as community members, were appreciated, Simon added.

“I don’t think I can be in a better school or a better community,” he said.

After Simon left the auditorium stage to a standing ovation, teacher Anne Wuebker and student Emily Hanson took to the stage. The audience watched as they donated some of their hair to the non-profit Children with Hair Loss, which makes wigs for girls.

Wuebker said she was inspired to “get the chop” after last year’s cancer awareness assembly, when teachers Megan Schellhorn and Jody Meyer donated some of their hair. She was pleased when Hanson decided to join her.

Becky Monroe cut their hair, noting that eight inches of hair will suffice for a donation.

“You don’t have to give everything,” she said. Having watched others go through cancer treatment, Monroe noted how losing their hair is one of the “single most devastating things.”

“What you’re doing is pretty special,” she said.

Staff and students capped off the assembly by heading outside, where, with the sun shining upon them, they released colored balloons into the clear, blue sky.

The cancer awareness event continued Friday night, as fans were encouraged to wear colored shirts to the quad basketball games against South Winn. The dance team performed a special “kick out cancer” kick routine.

For more on these activities, as well as the wrestling meet, please see the sports section.

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