Relay for Life Grand Marshal Sam Dotson holds his grandson Max Armstrong while his granddaughters Emmy Armstrong, left, and Dani Dotson play in the tree.
Retired Brookings police officer Sam Dotson has walked 270 miles around the Brookings-Harbor High School track in the 11 years he has been involved with Relay for Life.
Each year, he walked one mile for each year his wife, Rita, was a cancer survivor. In 2011, he got up to 34 miles in one night — but then later that year Dotson was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Now that he has been added to the list of survivors, and because of his contribution to Relay for Life, Dotson has been chosen the 2014 Relay for Life grand marshal.
New this year is the Badge of Courage recipient. This honor has been given to 7-year-old Lola Mello of Gasquet, whose parents work in Curry County.
Lola is undergoing treatment for bone marrow cancer in Oakland, California, as well as at Rogue Valley Medical Center in Medford, according to her mother, Maia Mello. Lola was diagnosed in April and is in Oakland this week for treatment. Maia said she is hoping her daughter will be able to make it to the relay on Saturday.
Odds are good that Lola will be attending the event as her mother said she has been facing the challenges of the chemotherapy with a hero’s attitude.
Dotson, who had many options for cancer treatment, chose surgery.
“I probably made the right decision,” Dotson said. “The cancer was all encapsulated,” meaning, it had not spread to any other part of his body.
The prostate cancer was caught early. His physician at the time, Dr. Kenneth Manuele, noticed Dotson’s numbers from his PSA screening were very high.
Dotson said some doctors will wait and watch the numbers. Dr. Manuele took immediate action.
Dotson admits he was scared, just as anyone else would be, when he received the diagnosis.
“Cancer is a scary word,” Dotson said. “It hits home pretty close.”
Rita was diagnosed at the age of 23, which was 37 years ago. Sam said that all those years he was supportive of her.
“I thought I was kind of immune. Now I was finding I had to rely on her for support,” Dotson said.
Rita said she was supporting of her husband because she remembers the feelin
g, and disagrees with Sam’s feeling that his cancer was no big deal.
“I feel I shouldn’t be grand marshal because my cancer is insignificant compared to others,” Dotson said.
After the cancer was removed from his body, Dotson has continued to enjoy hiking, although now he walks one lap, instead of one mile, for each year his wife has been cancer free.
Dotson estimates he has hiked about 8,000 miles in his lifetime. Most of the time he is hiking trails in the wilderness areas of Curry County.
In addition to walking the track in honor of his wife, and now being a cancer survivor himself, Dotson is also on the board of Friends of Curry County, a group which provides assistance for people undergoing cancer treatment, including providing gas cards so they can get to their treatment appointments.
By answering the phone for the organization, Dotson said he has learned a lot about different kinds of cancers.
“It’s an eye opener for me,” Dotson said.
Between his own experience and learning the experiences of others, Dotson stressed the importance of regular checkups.
“If it doesn’t feel right — get it checked out.”