Relay For Life Founder Diagnosed With Stomach Cancer

Relay For Life founder Dr. Gordy Klatt

Dr. Gordy Klatt, founder of the American Cancer Society Relay For Life program, says he has been diagnosed with stomach cancer.  In an email to Society staff, Klatt stated:

“Throughout the years I have spoken and written about how cancer can personally affect everyone. It affects the rich, the poor, and all nationalities and cultures around the world. About 4 weeks ago I was diagnosed with stomach cancer and I have begun my battle with this disease using chemotherapy.”

Klatt is also scheduled to have surgery this summer. Despite his condition, he is tentatively planning to attend his local Relay on June 8 in Tacoma, Washington.

Relay For Life started in the mid-1980s in Tacoma, Washington when Klatt, a colorectal surgeon, wanted to enhance the income of his local American Cancer Society. He decided to personally raise money for the fight by doing something he enjoyed — running marathons.

In the spring of 1985, Klatt spent 24 hours going around a local track –more than 83 miles – and throughout the night, nearly 300 people paid money to run or walk at intervals with him. He raised $27,000, and the experience led to his vision of 24-hour relay teams that raise money for cancer research.

Klatt’s vision turned into an annual program which has raised more than $4.8 billion, and has been an inspiration for millions of cancer survivors, caregivers and communities across the globe.

From Atlanta to Kuala Lumpur, local Relays are just getting underway for the 2012 season which runs each year from April through August.  In his email, Klatt encouraged participants to keep up the fight.

“I am even more energized to defeat this disease worldwide. I will again be with all of you in spirit this Relay season – even more so this year. Celebrate the survivors; remember those who lost the battle and fight back! We all need to celebrate more birthdays and by relaying we keep the hope alive through education, community involvement and fundraising for ongoing research.”

Regarding the news, Reuel Johnson, national vice president for Relay For Life offers this message for participants:

“The best way we can pay tribute and honor Gordy is to redouble our efforts in the 2012 Relay season … adding one more team, one more team member or one more additional donation…. and creating an extra meaningful Relay experience for those touched by that Relay spirit that we all learned from Gordy. Let’s all commit to lighting a special luminaria in honor of the founder of Relay at every Relay across the world.”

For more information on Relay For Life visit For press inquiries contact

About Sabriya Rice

Director of Media Relations for the American Cancer Society, former CNN Health Writer & Empowered Patient Producer, Blue Zones Longevity Explorer. Twitter: @sabriyarice
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19 Responses to Relay For Life Founder Diagnosed With Stomach Cancer

  1. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do, Chris Kirk

  2. Dear Dr. Klatt, I want to wish you nothig but the best for your cancer treatment. I do however want to thank you for what you have done for me. I have relayed for 12 years and have now been ACS ID staff for 5 years, you gave me the tool to express my grief for the loss of my Dad in a way that did not consume my life instead became part of my life. I think Relay For Life is an important part of recovery from Cancer including recovery for families that lost their survivor. You are an inspiration and i want you to know that I will purchase and light a luminary at my event in Honor of you! God Bless and best wishes. Kim Peach

  3. Dr. Klatt, my prayers are with you and all cancer survivors. I’ll call you the Father of Relay for having the idea of raising money to research and support cancer patients. I’m gonna follow Kim’s lead and light a luminary at the Cumberland County, NJ Relay in your honor. Stay positive! Laurie LaTorre

  4. Fresno Relay for Life team and committee members are praying for your success in your battle. Stay strong, keep a sense of humor, and know that your Relay family in Fresno, and I’m sure world-wide are supporting you and cheering you on.
    Thank you for igniting the spark that has become a global fire against cancer. I am honored to be a part of Relay.
    -Jenn B (Survivor, Team Captain, Committee Member)

  5. Diana Daeger says:

    Your vision lives on in all of us who relay each year! There shall be a luminary in your honor at the Jennings County, Indiana RFL! Take care and God Bless!
    Diana (Co-chair Survivorship Committee)

  6. Anita Kile says:

    Our Thoughts and prayers are with you. Thank you for making this become a reality for so very many people. My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer just this spring 2012 and we are doing Relay for life for oh so many people around all of us. God Blesses you and may your journey bring you through this, ( Team member Heather’s Hope ) Spencerport NY.

  7. Lynn Rozario says:

    Dear Dr. Klatt,
    Your vision and encouragement to the 24 hours Relay for Life across the globe to keep up the fight against cancer, is one of the most noble causes that my family and I support.
    Having lost my mother to cancer in 2003, in Bowral, New South Wales, Australia, makes it even more meaningful. And having my sister participate in the Bowral Relay for Life, makes us part of your mission.
    You are a huge inspiration, keep your hopes high, we pray you beat it.
    Our sincere wishes from Kuwait.
    Lynn Rozario

  8. Dear Dr. Klatt – Thank you for your strength of spirit and commitment to eradicate cancer and to support those in the heat of the battle. In dedicating luminaria for our local RFL, I quickly had 15 individuals to honor and support; since then, I’ve found several more (including you). There are few spared from the emotional and physical challenges that cancer brings to patients, their families, and their friends.
    You continue to demonstrate how a courageous, dedicated person can find ways to make a very big difference in the lives of so many. You will be in the thoughts of gratitude and prayers for strength, healing, and comfort from the many who are blessed by your good works.
    Barbara Hampton

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  10. Thank you, Dr.Klatt for your vision and your tenacity you have touched the lives of so many.God Bless you, you’ll beat this.

  11. Mary Carlson says:

    Thank you, Dr. Klatt for founding Relay For Life. It truly is the most amazing event one can participate in, knowing with every step that we are making a difference in the fight against cancer. Best wishes to you as you fight your personal fight. A luminary honoring You will be lit during our ceremony at the IMHS stadium on Friday, June 15. God Bless!

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  13. Dear Dr. Klatt, I hope you are stronger today than yesterday. I pray for your continued recovery. You have inspired an entire world which has resulted in communities of Relays giving Hope to so many people. It has been an honor to be part of this great cause, our efforts in South Gate and Lynwood continue in creating A World With More Birthdays. Thank you. May God’s grace shine upon you today and always. E. Galvan

  14. Bob Gagnon says:

    May God bless you in your fight! We have all been helped by you both as an exemplar of goodness and practically speaking. May you reap the temporal and eternal good of all of the good you have sown. Hope to hear you are walking a long, long time after this!

  15. Chuck Dilts says:

    I was honored to have you as a speaker at our Relay For Life of Natick, Framingham and Sherborn Opening Ceremony in 2011 (you don’t remember being there because we played the audio of your 2011 message to Relayers!) and look forward to hearing good news. You’re an inspiration to all of us!

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  18. The symptoms that you have mentioned could be due to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) or severe inflammation or narrowing of esophagus. But it is great that you will have Endoscopy, as this test can diagnose the actual problem. Hoping & praying that all goes well for you.

  19. Pingback: Relay For Life Founder Diagnosed With Stomach Cancer – GI Endoscopy Practice

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