When the usual Sprinkle Pink for Breast Cancer awareness in the Bitterroot Valley expanded to the Colors of Cancer, one of the biggest advocates for the Pink Ribbon and breast cancer awareness chose to lead the Lavender Team representing all cancers.
Susan Wetzsteon, Mikesell’s Fine Jewelry employee, has participated in Sprinkle Pink fundraising for seven years and starting with making a raffle quilt. She tuned into breast cancer awareness because her best friend died from breast cancer four years ago.
Wetzsteon said her change from pink to lavender was brought about by a Facebook post.
“Right after the information came out about the Colors of Cancer Stephanie (Roebke) posted something on Facebook about the need to have a bigger awareness for all kinds of cancer because her daughter dealt with cancer as a young child and it opened my heart,” Wetzsteon said through tears. “I lost Jaime (Grant) but so many people in my life have been affected by cancer so we need awareness for everybody.”
Stephanie Roebke’s daughter, Michelle, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 4.
“We went through a two and a half year journey of cancer treatment back and forth to Spokane because there wasn’t a treatment in Montana for the type of cancer that she had,” Roebke said. “It was a very intense treatment.”
Roebke said at the same time there were five other families from Montana making the trek to Spokane for childhood cancer treatments.
This year, Michelle Roebke, 7, is in the second grade at Stevensville Elementary School.
“She is in school and taking tests just like every other normal child,” Stephanie Roebke said. “She has been off treatment for a little over a year. She is in remission and we hope she stays there. Her visits to Spokane are less frequent so that is a good sign.”
Stephanie Roebke said September is childhood cancer awareness month and dear to her heart.
“I don’t post often on Facebook but I do post several times a day in September to bring more awareness to anyone who will read it,” she said. “Most people in Montana aren’t aware because there isn’t a children’s hospital here. It is more common than one thinks.”
She said the statistics are that one in 300 children will have a cancer diagnosis between birth and age 18.
“We know of four children in the Bitterroot Valley from Stevensville south age 18 and under that have been diagnosed with pediatric cancer,” Roebke said. “And we know of four out of Missoula and at least one family that lost their child.”
Michelle Roebke’s diagnosis was done in western Montana and Stephanie Roebke thanks Dr. Bret Heath of the Family Medicine Center, Missoula Bone and Joint, Missoula Hematology and Oncology.
“It was a long road and it was an almost six-month process from the time she started having symptoms to diagnosis,” she said.
Roebke said she is ever on the alert and never fully at rest that her daughter is fine.
“Any mention of leg pain is alarming,” she said. “Leg pain is how it started – but it wasn’t just growing pains.”
Wetzsteon praised the Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital’s Sprinkle Pink joining with the Daly Hospital Foundation to expand the program to Colors of Cancer.
“We all need to have more awareness of treatment, diagnosis and help for all cancers,” Wetzsteon said. “I wanted to be on team lavender because it is for all the colors of cancer. No matter who wins the game (Colors of Cancer in the Bitterroot Valley), all funds go to a general fund that will help anyone in need. We have a very generous community.”
This year Wetzsteon made another raffle quilt to support the Lavender Team representing all cancers. The quilt has every color on the Cancer Ribbon color wheel, the center of each square has a cancer ribbon embroidered onto it and she used butterfly fabric on the borders to represent hope.
“I’m a quilter and when I need to process something I quilt,” Wetzsteon said.
Visit Mikesell’s Fine Jewelry store all month long and during Hamilton’s Culture Crawl, 5-8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 12, to see Wetzsteon’s cancer-themed quilts.
The Lavender Team has another raffle under way for a multi-colored stone necklace.
“Cindy Mikesell is a sponsor and we created a Colors of Cancer neckless that will also be raffled off,” Wetzsteon said. “I designed it and Cindy created it. There are seven gem stones that represent some of the color ribbons. It is a 14-karat gold, one-of-a-kind seven-gem piece valued at $1,450.”
Stop in at Mikesell’s to purchase raffle tickets ($5 each or 5 for $20). The winning ticket will be drawn Oct. 31 at the store.
Shannon Urso on the Daly Hospital Foundation board and her daughter, Isabella Urso, 11, are co-captains on the lavender team with Wetzsteon.
Shannon Urso said she has lost many people to cancer.
“I lost my best friend from high school at age 32 to colon cancer she was diagnosed at 28, I’m happy to be part of the team,” Urso said. “The Daly Hospital Foundation board is working to find out what kind of testing we can do for all cancers with money raised from this campaign.”
Isabella Urso, an American Heritage Girl, said she enjoys helping fight against something vicious.
“I’ve always thought of cancer as something horrible and I love helping out with anything that I can,” she said.
October’s calendar is filled with Color of Cancer events and competitions. Salon 21, 241 S. Main, has a lavender-themed storefront window for competition. A Bitterroot Crossfit Colors of Cancer workout fundraiser that benefits the Lavender Team is 9 a.m., on Saturday, Oct. 27.
A quilt-related event is 9:30 a.m., on Oct. 20, where cancer survivors are invited to the Colors of Cancer 5K to make a handprint on a quilt block for the 2019 Colors of Cancer quilt.
For up-to-date information on Colors of Cancer visit mdmh.org.