Created: 07/30/2014 7:00 PM KAALtv.com
By: Stephanie Crock
(ABC 6 News) -- Dodge County is no stranger to the tragedies of cancer. Kasson in particular has had a number of cases over the past few years, and as we approach the county's 22nd Annual Relay for Life event, we talk to this year’s honorary chair.
Kasson-Manotorville teacher Lori Pagel is the educator behind the "Rainbow of Hope Walk," an assignment where her students help raise funds for Dodge County's Relay For Life. "We promised each other that we would do it every three years," said Lori.
She did it to get the students involved, but learned during the planning for this year's event, she'd be the one needing it the most. "At that point I had just found out that I had breast cancer and so no one else knew it," said Lori.
She'd been diagnosed with cancer in November, but kept it quiet for a couple months until she learned she'd have to go through chemotherapy, meaning this would no longer be a private journey.
"Just before I went into chemo for the first time, I had to actually speak the words and tell the kids," said Lori. She says that's the moment it all became real. "Just to say, 'I have cancer,' was really the hardest part."
Getting that out opened the door for support.
"She's went through this whole process of having breast cancer with her students. She's been very open with them and we just love her attitude toward the whole thing," said Dodge County Relay for Life Chair Alita Abbot.
Luck would have it, it was a former student who helped Lori through the first round of chemo. "I told her 'I'm scared to death' and she says, 'nope I'm here with you,' and I said, 'well Katie, I can't think of a better person to leave my life in their hands,' and so she got me through," said Lori.
Words from another supporter encouraged Lori to do something she says she never would've had the guts to do, "She said 'oh so you educate? …and I said 'yep,' and she said 'well go educate,'" said Lori.
She plans to educate those at the Relay for Life event Friday as the honorary chair, in hopes to lift the spirits of those fighting that same battle. "The little things can make a difference in people’s lives, I know that it did in mine, “said Lori.
Lori is not in remission yet, but is done with chemotherapy until her next hospital visit in the fall. Last year, the Dodge County Relay for Life raised nearly $175,000 for the American Cancer Society.