By DEVIN WEEKS
POST FALLS — In 2004, LaRain Saige was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a blood and bone marrow cancer.
Immediately, she thought her life was ending.
"I had medical books that were 50 years old at the time, and they said there was nothing you could do for a leukemia patient except make them comfortable before they pass," Saige, of Post Falls, said Wednesday. "It's always a big thing at the beginning when you have cancer. At the beginning, it's a death sentence. You think you're going to die."
From that July to December, Saige was "hit hard and fast" with chemotherapy and medication trials. The treatments were exhausting, but soon she was in remission, overcoming the fear she felt upon diagnosis and forgetting the words in those old books.
"I had two little boys at the time," she said. "They got to keep their mom."
At the tail end of her treatment, Saige got involved with Relay for Life, a nonprofit volunteer event that generates funds for the American Cancer Society.
That first year she was a spectator. She witnessed the love of the dedicated teams as they spent hours walking laps around the track of the Greyhound Park and Event Center in Post Falls, celebrating survivors and honoring the memories of those who have passed.
"More people are surviving," Saige said. "That was a bit of an eye-opener for me to see that people do survive and carry on with their lives. It's not a death sentence. You can get cancer and survive."
Saige has since served as the chairperson of the event, and now co-chairs Relay for Life of Kootenai County with event leadership volunteer Johna Nelson.
"Relay for Life is important to those of us who have lost people," Nelson said. "It helps us to honor those who are still fighting and remember those we've lost. It's our way of being able to support them by walking beside them."
Relay for Life has been present in North Idaho for 26 years. Some changes have happened along the way, but the purpose has remained the same — to provide hope.
"It's a good event for everybody to get together to support each other. Sharing stories and getting to know people, that's a huge thing," Saige said. "If you get cancer, there is hope. It's not a death sentence."
The next Relay for Life of Kootenai County event will be held Saturday in Post Falls Middle School. The day will open with a special survivors' lap to honor those who have battled cancer. At least 19 teams will then begin the 10-hour event, walking nonstop to show their determination to continue the fight.
Survivors and caregivers will be treated to a free survivors' meal, dessert, raffles and gifts. Additional dining guests are $5 each. Survivor check in begins at 11 a.m., lunch will be served at 1 p.m.
The day will also include live entertainment, games, kids activities, food, a luminaria ceremony and more. The goal is to raise $27,000.
Survivors are encouraged to register online prior to the event at www.relayforlife.org/kootenaicountyid.
Post Falls Middle School is located at 301 E. 16th Ave. in Post Falls.