Saint Mary Alum Laps Cancer
Saint Mary alum Dottie Butterfield will celebrate two major milestones this September: the 10th birthday of her youngest child, and her 10th year free from cancer.
Dottie, C’01 and M’08, is a cancer survivor and a proud combatant in the battle against the disease. This summer, she
completed her latest go through the Leavenworth County Relay for Life—an all-night relay walk that raises funds to help stamp out cancer—a personal tradition that began in 2003.
For Dottie, this particular journey began a year earlier. Months removed from her Saint Mary graduation and only weeks away from the birth of her third child, Savanna, Dottie was diagnosed with fibrosarcoma. And the Leavenworth native was lucky, it turned out, to get that diagnosis.
“I was pregnant and on bed rest, and my doctor told me to watch out for signs of blood clots,” she said.
“One day I woke up with just no feeling in my leg from about the knee down.”
Her doctor assumed it was a blood clot, and she was rushed to emergency room. Instead of a clot, they discovered a solid mass.
“At first, they weren’t going to send it off to pathology, but then they decided to send it anyway,” she said. “They discovered it was malignant…
“I was really lucky. Although I had a stage four tumor, the hormones related to pregnancy caused it to grow locally and not metastasize,” she said. “We were very lucky to find it.”
Dottie’s doctors decided to deliver the baby six weeks early. Savanna was only four days old when her mother started cancer treatment.
“The American Cancer Society gave me a lot of assistance,” she said. “And that’s how I got involved with Relay for Life.”
At first, she didn’t know what to expect.
“I was worried it would be a huge pity party of people sitting around and talking about themselves,” she said. “I was completely wrong. They were celebrating being alive and fighting together.
“The first time I walked the Survivor’s Walk in 2003, it was such an emotional experience. You’re walking the track with 100 other people and they all understand. They all know the devastation and they’re all fighting tooth and nail to stay alive. They understand not only the physical difficulties of going through treatment, they understand the emotional toll.”
Her team of about a dozen has raised thousands of dollars through the event. And they don’t plan on stopping.
Come September, Dottie will still be celebrating. She’ll celebrate Savanna’s birthday, and she’ll celebrate being alive.
Interested in getting involved with Relay for Life? Go to www.relayforlife.org/leavenworthcoks.”