Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Three-time cancer survivor and Stillwater Billings Clinic physical therapist Stephanie Wetmore (on the right) and SBC Occupational Therapist Valerie Maeker at the Relay for Life event in Billings.

Kickin’ it and going strong

Stillwater Billings Clinic’s own 3-time cancer survivor kicks off Relay for Life event

Stephanie Perdue-Wetmore knows a thing or two about fighting the good fight.
The 48-year-old physical therapist/director of rehabilitation services at the Stillwater Billings Clinic has faced — and beaten — cancer three times.
In 2005, it was melanoma. In 2008, in was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And in 2015, it was breast cancer.
But she isn’t just a survivor. Perdue-Wetmore is a fighter. Not only for herself, but for others who find themselves in her shoes.
Since 2010, she has taken part in the Relay for Life event held in Billings every July on a team called “Nip It In The Bud.” The team is in the “Friends and Family” division and has been the top fundraiser in that division for the past seven years, raising $14,000 this last year alone. Joining Perdue-Wetmore on that team is Stillwater Billings Clinic’s OT Valerie Maeker. Their team got beat this year by the Believe in Angels team.
“Over the past 11 years, my small team of amazing women has raised $130,000. The entire Relay raised $528,000 this year and has raised over $9 million in its history,” said Perdue-Wetmore. “One-third of the money raised stays locally to provide meals, lodging and transportation to cancer patients and their families. One-third goes nationally and one-third goes to research.”
This year’s event was special, as Perdue-Wetmore served as one of four grand marshals that opened the event with a survivor’s lap. Grand marshals are chosen because they have inspired others by their dedication to Relay for Life and also for the fight against cancer. Grand Marshals must be either survivors or caregivers and serve as ambassadors for Relay for Life.
“It is very humbling to have been chosen,” said Perdue-Wetmore.
The first lap of the event is the survivor lap, which is followed by each team walking a team lap. There is also a caregiver lap. Typically, more than 700 survivors walk or wheel the survivor lap.
“I’ve seen survivors as young as about 15 months to a sweet elderly couple (both survivors) who walked the lap hand-in-hand,” she said.

Giving Back
Perdue-Wetmore’s initial motivation for getting involved in Relay for Life was her desire to give back to the American Cancer Society.
When I was receiving radiation for my nHL at Mayo Clinic in 2008, I was fortunate enough to stay at Hope Lodge. Hope Lodge is an American Cancer Society facility that provides free lodging for patients and a caregiver. They provide more than lodging actually. During my time there I met many other cancer patients and their caregivers, all of whom supported and provided camaraderie to each other,” she said.