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Battling cancer; Relay for Life honorary chairs share experiences

John M. Steiner / The Sun Judy Hager, honorary chair for the 2014 Stutsman County Relay for Life, will be walking the track at Taylor Stadium Saturday during the Relay.1 / 2
Ruby Duciaome has beaten both breast and lung cancer with a positive attitude and the support of her family and doctors.2 / 2

Judy Hager and Ruby Duciaome are enthusiastic volunteers for the 2014 Stutsman County Relay for Life.

Hager and Duciaome are the honorary chairs for the 2014 Relay happening from 6 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday at Taylor Stadium on the University of Jamestown’s campus.

Both women are cancer survivors. Hager was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in October 2011. She said she had both of her breasts removed, then started chemotherapy treatment at the end of November in 2011.

“I would get six treatments every three weeks,” Hager said.

When she finished the chemotherapy three months later, she took three weeks off, then started five weeks of radiation treatment.

Hager said she considered herself lucky in that the chemotherapy treatments didn’t make her extremely ill.

“I would feel less energetic like a couple days after the treatment, but not as bad as some people,” she said.

Hager wasn’t surprised when the doctor told her she had breast cancer. She said she had a lump in her right breast for years. But she did struggle when she found out how advanced the cancer was. She said she had a mammogram in May 2011 and had her lymph nodes checked, and there was no sign of cancer at that time.

Hager said her sister, Bette Nelson, had ovarian cancer when she was 40.

“They caught it early, she is 56 today,” she said.

Hager got involved with Relay for Life through her employer, the University of Jamestown. The students hold their own relay fundraising event each year and asked her to speak last year.

“It was a really cool experience, speaking at the student event,” she said.

This year Hager is part of the UJ Relay for Life team and is working on the Stutsman County Relay for Life Luminary Committee. She said so far the committee has handed out about 1,500 luminarias. Luminarias are bags with sand in the bottom that hold candles. The luminarias will be placed around the track at Taylor Stadium to honor those who beat cancer and honor those who lost their battle with the disease.

Hager said she would like to see as many people as possible come out and get involved with the relay.

“It’s an incredible event,” she said. “You can’t help but be touched by what you see when you walk around the track and see all the different luminary, all the different people who’ve been affected by cancer.”

Duciaome has survived breast cancer and lung cancer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2009 and had a mastectomy the next month. She underwent chemotherapy treatment and the cancer went into remission.

Duciaome found herself battling cancer again less than four years later. In January 2013 she was struck by a vehicle. Duciaome was taken to the Jamestown Regional Medical Center for X-rays, and one of the X-rays showed a spot on one of her lungs. In August 2013 she had half of a lung removed.

Duciaome has two grown children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She said her family has a history of cancer; two of her sisters died of the disease. She considers herself lucky because she received quick treatment for her cancers by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I’ve had excellent medical care through the VA,” she said.

Duciaome said she also believes having a positive attitude helped in her fight against cancer.

“When I was first diagnosed with (breast) cancer, I didn’t know what to think,” she said. “Then, through my own Christian belief, I began to think I could survive this if I changed my attitude. ‘This, too, shall pass.’”

By adopting a positive attitude, Duciaome said she started feeling better about everything.

“If you stress yourself out, nothing good can come of it,” she said.

Duciaome said she got involved in Relay for Life four years ago, but has become more active over the last two years. She is co-chair of the First United Methodist Church relay team.

Like Hager, Duciaome said she hopes more people get involved with the Relay.

“I hope people will give it a try,” she said. “The Relay is a family, it’s unique. All the people you’ll meet, they are very positive.”

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at

Chris Olson

Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University

(701) 952-8454