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Cancer survivor is honorary chair of 2007 Relay for Life

Joyce Oberg is proof that a cancer diagnosis does not equal a death sentence.

Oberg has been cancer-free for 33 years. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy in 1974.

Oberg is this year's honorary chairwoman of the Beltrami County Relay for Life, an annual event that brings together cancer survivors, family members, friends and community members to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society.

The 11th annual Beltrami County Relay for Life will run 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday at Bemidji High School.

At the event, Oberg will deliver a speech, lead the survivors' walk and light the first luminary.

"To just see that that many people are survivors is impressive," she said.

With many different teams at the event, each team tries to have at least one member walking around the track throughout the night and into the next morning. Teams may also have booths, where they may sell refreshments or products to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

"Every year it just gets bigger," Oberg said. "It's wonderful; all (the money raised) goes to the cancer society."

One of the highlights of the event, Oberg said, is that cancer survivors meet one another. And, you might discover that someone you know is a survivor.

"There's a camaraderie there," she said. "You've both been through it."

Oberg's friends and family also will support her this Friday. Her loved ones have helped decorate luminaries - paper bags that usually display a name of a cancer survivor or victim -- which house votive candles, which are lit in honor of the people to which they are dedicated.

Oberg and her husband, Gordon, have three children and one granddaughter.

Oberg has been involved in the Relay for Life for several years, having taken part on a team organized around the North Country Regional Hospital gift shop, where she volunteers.

She is a member of First Lutheran Church and volunteers at the Bemidji Community Food Shelf. Oberg also is active in the Bemidji Area Church Musicians.