Prayer Support: Relay for Life celebrates cancer fighters

By VANESSA DIETZ

vdietz@mininggazette.com

BARAGA – “That was hard,” cancer survivor Therese Korpi told the crowd Friday at the Baraga County Relay for Life. “I chose to go through that, and I’m glad. It’s all been going very well.”

Korpi was talking about her double mastectomy and reconstruction following a breast cancer diagnosis nine years ago. She says her survival can be credited to a lot of prayers on her behalf.

“Every church in Baraga County had me on their prayer list,” she said.

Korpi first noticed a sore lump in her breast in 2007, 10 months after a friend had been diagnosed with the disease. An ultrasound showed a large mass her doctor biopsied.

“The wait between that and when the doctor’s office called was like torture,” Korpi said. “We just cried in the kitchen.”

Korpi said she and her husband, John, had a hard time accepting the diagnosis.

“It was very difficult to realize it was cancer,” she said. “It really is not a pleasant experience.”

Surgery ensued within two weeks of her diagnosis, but John could not care for her post-op.

“I had been going through some difficulty in my marriage at the time,” Korpi said, so she moved in with family in L’Anse.

While she had lost the support of her husband, her family and friends rallied during two rounds of chemotherapy that followed.

“If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it good,” she said regarding her donning of a long red wig after her hair fell out. “I thought, ‘Oh, it rocks!’

“I was bald as an egg,” she said. “I lost my eyebrows and everything.”

She faced other traumas during this time.

Her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease while she was divorcing.

“She still knew the family,” Korpi said of her mother. “That was the greatest blessing.”

On one of her visits, her mother beckoned Korpi to her side.

“Mom said, ‘Come lay down.’ She just stroked my hair. I had the closure with her for just that brief (moment). I really needed her at that point.

“We are survivors,” Korpi concluded. “We get through things with our God and our family. God willing, I’ll be her next year.”

Teams named BCMH, VIKES, Credit Union Crusaders, Save the Racks, Ojibwa Casino, Super Yoopers, Superior Homestead Heroes, KBIC, Mission United Lutheran Church, Sacred Heart, Mary Band of Misfits and Ohana participated in the second annual event at the Baraga Area Schools track and field.