An 18-year survivor, Petras will tell her story at Kadoka's Relay For Life August 21

Back then … Jody Petras, surrounded by balloons and a stuffed bear made by Nancy Weller and autographed by the entire Kadoka High School 1994 junior class. This photo was taken in December, 1992. Petras will be one of the guest speakers at the 2010 Quad-County Relay For Life in Kadoka, August 21.

At the young age of 16 years, it wasn't easy for Jody Petras when she learned she had cancer. She was just a junior at Kadoka High School. Today, she is an 18-year cancer survivor.

Her contagious, bright smile and the soft voice will leave an impact when you listen to her testimonial on how important it is to take precautionary measures when dealing with one's health.

Petras will not only be attending Kadoka's Relay For Life on Saturday, August 21, she is scheduled to be a guest speaker.

She's been through it all. In October, 1992 Petras began what seemed to be an eternity of doctoring, starting with a fever and sore throat. On November 9, Dr. Coen Klopper ordered a chest x-ray, blood tests and a CAT scan. The following day the family received word that the doctor suspected that a tumor was cancerous. Following a biopsy it was positive; she had Hodgkin's disease.

"I'll never forget that phone call, never," Petras said five years ago.

Hodgkin's disease is a rare form of cancer often seen in younger people, developing in the lymphatic system. She was lucky, as it was diagnosed early. Chemotherapy was her treatment of choice, having two treatments a month. The first treatment of each month was about five hours long and the second one last two to three hours. She then had two weeks off and the rotation started again. The majority of the treatments were done in Philip. Her parents gave her Heparin shots to thin her blood every 12 hours in order to keep a blood clot from forming in the implanted port in her chest.

"Losing my hair was when I realized I was not in control," she said. However, today she sees that as a minor issue, compared to what could have happened.

Shortly after Linda Williams, a close friend of Jody, was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, together the gals walked the survivor lap at the 2003 Relay For Life in Rapid City.

Petras still recalls the relay held in Wall the following year. Williams was the motivation behind their entire team, but Linda wasn't there; she passed away August 14, 2004, at the age of 36.

"I haven't been to a relay since then," Petras said. However, she's looking forward to coming to Kadoka this year. "I've learned more about living from Linda's experience than my own. She went on to say that with Linda's passing she learned life is short and to appreciate every moment.

Right out of high school Petras went into the medical field. She lives in Rapid City where she is an eight-year employee at the Endoscopy Center. "What we do every day is try to prevent cancer," she said. Petras said she fell into her job by sheer accident and she wouldn't have had a colonoscopy if she had not worked there. But she has, and a pre-cancerous polyp was removed.

The horror jokes have been around for years about having a mammogram or a colonoscopy. Petras will tell you that drinking the gallon of Colyte the night before is the hardest part. She mixed her's with Crystal Light Lemonade. "That helps, but it's not a rum and coke," she laughed. The procedure only takes 20-30 minutes, she added. The drink and the results of removing polyps is better than chemo, she stated.

The American Cancer Society recommends screening for everyone at the age of 50.

"It's a great feeling when someone comes in having no problems; we find something and we can prevent cancer," she concluded.