By Sean Barron
Andrea Mochtyak enjoys working two jobs and living a typical life in most respects, which makes it difficult to fathom that she had been diagnosed nearly eight years ago with advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“I didn’t want to view myself as a victim or a cancer patient,” the Lowellville woman explained. “I wanted to live as normal a life as possible.”
Mochtyak, a seven-year cancer survivor who works at Home Depot and as an assistant teacher at Wee Care Day Care & Learning Center, both in Boardman, is doing just that. She also was among those who took part in the Relay for Life of Poland, which got underway Friday at Poland Seminary High School football stadium, 3199 Dobbins Road.
The relay, in its seventh year, was to honor cancer survivors and remember those who lost their lives to the disease. It’s also part of a national effort to raise money for research, education and advocacy, as well as to increase awareness regarding cancer.
“Gianna’s Dream Team,” “Kids 4 the Cure,” “Team Navy Rocks,” “Debbie’s Angels” and “The Pink Fluffy Monsters” were among the estimated 15 teams that participated in the fundraiser. A goal was to bring in at least $65,000 for the American Cancer Society, noted Stefanie Sobinovsky, chairwoman.
Mochtyak recalled a lump on her neck, after which a biopsy led to the discovery of four additional cancer cells, three in her chest and one in her groin area. Nevertheless, she continued to work at the former Holiday Inn MetroPlex in Liberty Township until after her fourth chemotherapy treatment, Mochtyak added that she also lost her grandmother, Sophie Meyers, to cancer in September 2003.
“Family helped a lot,” she said of the support she received. “I feel great.”
Walking on the outdoor track with Mochtyak was Deborah Ringer of North Jackson, who’s been free of cancer for about a year.
“I had pain off and on and had a mastectomy,” which led to the discovery of a small lump in her breast in early 2013, Ringer recalled.
Ringer came to Friday’s Relay for Life also to honor her mother, Nellie Padisak, who died nearly 20 years ago from cancer.
“We’re all here trying to help each other out as much as we can,” she said of the event.
The keynote speaker was John Whitinger of Poland, who also founded the Relay for Life event.
Whitinger recalled having suffered from migraine headaches beginning in 2003, and how a brain scan at Cleveland Clinic revealed an abnormality, the origin of which was unknown. Soon, however, the headaches changed in duration, frequency and severity.
“I kept thinking to myself, ‘I want a second opinion,’” Whitinger said, adding that he later learned he had cancer.
For a while afterward, he went every three months to Cleveland Clinic for checkups, but two years after his first surgery, Whitinger learned that the tumor had returned and began growing again, which required a second, more-aggressive surgery, he continued.
“Now I’m living three months at a time. It’s really tough, especially on my family,” Whitinger added, noting that all survivors have unique challenges, problems and ways to recover.
Some Relay participants took part in an endurance walk in which they walked 24 hours to honor cancer patients.
The Relay for Life gathering also featured a luminaria-lighting ceremony that allowed people to light candles for their loved ones.
In addition, the event had a dinner for survivors, exercise workshops and a variety of games and activities for children.