Survivors get support at relay

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

She surpassed the odds in the control of her cancer and served as honorary chairperson of the annual Relay for Life charity event for the American Cancer Society Friday and Saturday at Greyhound Arena in Portales.

Bethany Harenberg, a 19-year-old Eastern New Mexico University sophomore, was diagnosed with melanoma in her senior year of high school, and has undergone several radiation treatments in an effort to rein in her disease.

Scared at first of what she would have to go through, Harenberg has had support from her family and later from her friends after she shared the news of her diagnosis.

“I was nervous for people to know about it,” Harenberg said.

Dealing with a few rough spots in the road and bouts of sadness, Harenberg is doing well. From her experience she has developed strong relationships with friends and family and learned not to take her body for granted, she said.

“My family meant a lot to me before (the diagnosis), but they mean even more now,” Harenberg said.

Having two parents diagnosed with cancer helped prepare Julie Miller of Portales when she received her diagnosis of stage 0 breast cancer.
Stage 0 is a stage of cancer that has not begun to progress. Yearly mammograms helped catch her cancer early, she said.

“I kind of expected it, I faced it head-on,” Miller said.

Her family history factored into Miller’s decision to have a bilateral mastectomy, with reconstruction. This option allowed for less of a chance of the cancer developing. Miller says she was fortunate because she has not had to undergo any type of radiation or chemotherapy treatments.

Facing her diagnosis head-on allowed Miller little time to become emotional. A strong support system from family, friends and co-workers has allowed her to keep a strong and positive attitude, she said.

“I’m more emotional now than when I was going through the diagnosis,” Miller said.

Feeling healthy and optimistic, Miller encourages women to get an annual mammogram in the hope of an early diagnosis such as hers.

“There wasn’t a dead moment. We had really good participation,” Amy Garcia, Yucca Junior High FCCLA teacher and co-organizer, said of the event that featured teams walking the track for 12 hours straight.

A highlight of the evening was the survivors’ reception that was held to honor the people who have and are continuing to battle cancer, said Kye Thomas, a Texico FCCLA teacher and reception hostess.

“We wanted to do something to make sure they (survivors) felt special,” Thomas said.