BLACKFOOT – The Relay for Life Survivor Dinner is at 5:30 p.m. this evening in the Arts and Crafts building at the Eastern Idaho State Fairgrounds in Blackfoot. Parking is in the carnival area to the west.
The dinner is not in the Senior Citizen Center.
This year’s speaker is cancer survivor Oleva Blessinger from Riverside.
“My hope is one day they will find a cure for cancers,” she said.
In 2004, Blessinger survived Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML). CML is a slow- growing cancer in which the bone marrow — the soft, spongy tissue in the center of bones — makes too many white blood cells.
“What I noticed,” she said, “was I was feeling tired and there was a hardness in my stomach.
“It turned out that the hardness was in my spleen, not my stomach,” Blessinger said. “I had an overproduction of white blood cells and the spleen could not filter the volume. The white blood cells just collected in the spleen.”
Blessinger noticed changes in her body in June 2004. By August 2004, she was having a bone marrow transplant.
“I had high doses of chemo for six days that killed my immune system before I had the bone marrow transplant,” she said. “My brother, Benilo DeGuili, was a perfect match.
Bone marrow was extracted from her brother and put into her system.
“Because my brother was a perfect match, I didn’t have rejection issues,” Blessinger said.
She explained that one of the major complications of transplants is graft versus host disease.
“I was in the University of Utah hospital for 30 days before being transferred to a hospital in Salt Lake City for 70 days.
“Upon returning home, I had to watch it,” Blessinger said. “I had to stay away from public places; I wore a mask and gloves to protect myself from other people for about a year.
“What I learned is that you can never do it alone,” she said. “I was blessed to have family, friends and co-workers who helped me.
“Some things that we think are very important are not so important,” Blessinger said. “It’s really the simple things that matter.
“I received tons of help from people I didn’t know,” she said. “The only way I can repay them is to help some else.”
Blessinger gets a blood test every six months until she hits her 10-year mark.
She recommends a person seek medical help if he or she bruises easily or if the bruising takes a long time to heal.
Many members of her family has been affected by cancer. Her father died from prostate cancer in 2007. Her mother at age 83 is doing well having survived two kinds of cancer — rectal and lung.
Blessinger and her husband, Steve, have two daughters and one son.
All cancer survivors are invited to attend tonight’s dinner. They do not need a RSVP.
"Not all cancer survivors are known to the Relay for Life committees but we want them to know they are invited and are welcome to come," said organizer Carrie Hasselbring.
The Survivor Dinner is sponsored by On The Spot Cleaning and Restoration in Blackfoot.