HOUGHTON - When Stephenie Strieff first walked in the Relay for Life in Houghton in honor of family members in 2000, she had no idea that 10 years later she'd be walking as a survivor of ovarian cancer.
"Before I had it, I was walking," she said.
Strieff, who was taking part in the rain Friday in the 15th annual Copper Country Relay for Life to raise funds for cancer research at the athletic field at Houghton High School, said her cancer was discovered when she was pregnant with her son, Aden, in 2005. Doctors decided to wait until she gave birth in 2006 to remove all of her right ovary and part of her left.
"I had a C-section and they removed them," she said.
Besides her brother, who had cancer in 1980, Strieff said her grandmother had breast cancer and her grandfather had lung cancer, so she was walking in the Relay for all of them.
"I want a cure so my kids don't have to go through it," she said.
Strieff said besides Aden, who is 4 years old, her other children are Koryne, 13, and Cailey, who is 14 years old, and who have been taking part in the Relay for 10 years.
Barb Banfield, CCRL team captains' mentor, said despite the one-hour rain delay of the start of the Relay, participants seemed unaffected.
"It's not dampening their spirits," she said.
This year, Banfield said 31 teams are taking part in the 24-hour event, which ended at 1 p.m.?Saturday.
That number of teams compares favorably to the 30 to 35 teams the event usually draws.
"We've had as many as 45," she said.
Banfield said as the start of the Relay Friday, $83,000 was raised for the American Cancer Society's research efforts. The total raised will be known later today, but CCRL will be collecting donations well after the Relay.
The organization has no monetary goal each year, Banfield said, but members are grateful for whatever they raise.
"We start at zero and whatever we raise is great," she said.
Milt Olsson, who is a cancer survivor and captain of the Houghton Rotary Relay team, said the club has been involved with the local Relay for Life from the beginning.
Olsson said he expects the team's efforts this year to be successful.
"We're trying to raise $8,000," he said. "We're about halfway there (at 4:30 p.m. Friday), and we expect to have it all at 1 p.m. (Saturday)."
Olsson said there were 24 walkers scheduled for the 24-hour period of the Relay.
"We've got almost every hour covered," he said.
Strieff said if she had developed cancer even 10 years before she did, she may not have survived, so she's sure research is important.
"I was a lucky one to survive," she said. "The money (the Relay raises) helps to find a cure."