by Larry Austin
Cancer has been a part of Casey Dahlstrom's life since he was 3 years old, but rather than run from the memory, he embraces it.
Dahlstrom will describe his life with cancer at the Grand Island Relay For Life Kickoff Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. in the Connor Middle School cafeteria. The event was postponed exactly three weeks due to bad weather. Relay For Life itself, the largest fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, will have its 12th edition on the Island at 2 p.m. May 31 and runs to 2 a.m. June 1.
Dahlstrom, 25, was 3 years old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. Now the publicity chair for the Grand Island Relay For Life, Dahlstrom has been named the honorary survivor for the GI Relay For Life, an event he didn't know existed through the first half of its history.
"This will be GI's 12th, and for the first five or six years that Grand Island held a Relay, I didn't know about it," Dahlstrom said. "And as soon as I learned about it, I've been kicking myself ever since because this Grand Island Relay is phenomenal. The effort that people put into it year-round is just extraordinary."
The GI Relay has surpassed $1 million in funds raised. This year's theme is "Rock-Out Cancer," with the kickoff sure to be a high-energy affair compared to past iterations. Kickoff will include "plenty of awards, food and music," Dahlstrom said.
The Island native, though, will be enjoying his first kickoff, where he says he hopes to inspire others with his story.
"I've never asked for sympathy. What I'm seeking is understanding of what it's like to battle through cancer. Many people don't understand that it's not an overnight, take two pills, a little rest, eat some chicken soup and you're done. It's a battle that will take years to get back to normal, and cancer doesn't just affect you the patient, it affects your family, your friends, co-workers, your whole community."
That whole community on Grand Island meets every year for the past 12 to fight back against cancer. "Every year when I show up at Relay, and I'm seeing neighbors, teachers, past co-workers, people I've met over my life all at this event, it feels rewarding that we can all come from different walks of life and yet we're all here with the same mission," Dahlstrom said.