Dr. Gordy Klatt, the colorectal surgeon who founded the American Cancer Society Relay For Life program, announced recently that he has been diagnosed with stomach cancer. The news spread quickly throughout the Relay community as local events were just getting underway. Messages of support poured in from cancer survivors around the world.
“We are all here for a purpose, and Gordy’s strength and determination will see him through to the other side — to spread the word as a survivor,” said Janet Bender in a message on Faceook.
“You continue to demonstrate how a courageous, dedicated person can find ways to make a very big difference in the lives of so many,” commented Barbara Hampton on the Society’s press room blog where the news was announced.
“Thank you for the glorious start and historic outcomes. We know we will see you celebrate many more birthdays at Relay For Life,” wrote Joe Christopher on the wall of Klatt’s Relay donation page.
Moved by the response, Klatt has this update for the thousands who have reached out via email, letters and social media:
“The response to my cancer battle has given me an overwhelming feeling of support. The fact that Relay For Life has reached so many people in all corners of the world is a great satisfaction to me. I have good doctors, caregivers, medicines and supporters everywhere. This cancer is in big trouble.”
Just over twenty-seven years ago, from May 17-18, 1985, Klatt spent 24-hours going around a Tacoma, Washington track – more than 83 miles – and throughout the night, nearly 300 people paid money to run or walk with him.
The event later turned into the international Relay For Life program - the largest nonprofit fundraising event in the world - which has raised more than $4.5 billion, led to several recognitions and inspired millions of cancer survivors, caregivers and communities.
Klatt will undergo three rounds of chemotherapy before having surgery in July to remove his stomach. Another three rounds of chemotherapy will follow the surgery. “A proven protocol for success, especially since all scans thus far show no evidence of spread of the tumor,” says Klatt.
Despite the rigorous treatment, he is still registered to participate in his local Relay in Tacoma, Washington on June 8. “This is where I belong, especially now as a survivor. The treatment will not keep me away,” he explains. He encourages each Relay participant to do the same:
“The improvement in cancer death rates and incidence rates, thanks in no small part to Relay For Life over the past 27 years, has truly been a memorable experience. We are all a part of the success. Relay until cancer is dead!”