The Butterfly Effect, by Michelle Shkolnick

For a long time, I continued my subscription to Newsweek magazine just because of one column written by a man with the gift of taking common and not-so-common happenings and turning them into great life lessons. I have never forgotten one particular issue in which the columnist wrote about “the butterfly effect.” At its core, the butterfly effect has to do with chaos theory and “is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place can result in large differences to a later state.” Simply put, the butterfly effect suggests that a butterfly flapping its wings could cause a tiny breeze that might ultimately change the course of a tornado or a hurricane on another continent.

Think about that…

Just one little butterfly flapping its wings…a small change in one corner of the world impacting weather patterns in another.

As we move full throttle into Relay season in Nebraska, I am reminded of how Relay started…one little butterfly flapping his wings.

The first Relay For Life in Tacoma, Washington, 1985. Dr. Gordon Klatt in center.

In 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon, wanted to show support for his patients and raise money for his local American Cancer Society office. He walked and ran around a track in Tacoma, WA for more than 83 miles over a 24-hour period. He had over 300 folks come out and show their support. Friends paid $25 to walk/run with Dr. Klatt that night, and as a result, he raised over $27,000. The following year, 19 teams took part and they raised $33,000.

Relay For Life was born…because Dr. Klatt flapped his wings.

 I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March of 2001. After my mastectomy, I underwent eight rounds of two different kinds of chemotherapy. This was followed by seven weeks of radiation, which was followed by five years of Tamoxifen, which was followed by five more years of Femara. Because of the precision of my treatment (and perhaps the flap of a butterfly’s wings somewhere in Moscow), I celebrated 11 years cancer free in March.

 My first Relay was the result of a “wing-flap” by my chemo nurses. About half way through my eight round protocol, one of them invited me out to this “neat little thing” they called Relay For Life that was happening the following day. I joined them on the track that warm night in June and my life has never been the same. The butterfly effect is rooted in the notion that small events can have large, widespread impacts. That one little wing-flap…the invitation to come out that night…has changed the course of my life forever.

 Think about this…

Dr. Gordy Klatt

…seemingly small things with large impacts…

Never doubt the difference WE are making in the fight against cancer. Since inception, Relay For Life has grown from one man walking a track in Tacoma, Washington to over 5,200 communities in the United States and over 20 countries across the globe. Relay has raised over $4.5 BILLION to fight cancer through research, education, advocacy and services. As a result, cancer death rates have decreased by 23% in men and 15% in women since the early 1990’s. In the last two decades, this means that more than a MILLION cancer deaths have been avoided and today, there are over 12 MILLION survivors…one of whom might be standing next to you in the grocery store check-out line or sitting next to you at your kid’s piano recital.

 …not bad for one little butterfly, on a track in Tacoma, Washington 27 years ago…

 …and not bad for all of us flapping our wings hoping to change the course of cancer in every corner of the world.

 Personal note: Earlier this year, Dr. Klatt was diagnosed with stomach cancer. As he wages a very personal battle with cancer, please keep our butterfly in your thoughts and prayers.

by Michelle Shkolnick – 2012 Hero of Hope

This is the third post of Michelle Shkolnick’s  series as a contributor for the site.  Shkolnick, who is an American Cancer Society Relay For Life Hero of Hope in 2012 will share her captivating writing ability with ACSNebraska readers every other week in May and June.  She will talk about her cancer journey, the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life, survivorship and the people she’s met along the way.  Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and began Relaying in Omaha that summer.  This year, she travels across Nebraska talking to fellow Relayers and inspiring people to help the American Cancer Society make a difference by saving lives.  Please check back with or subscribe to the site because you won’t want to miss a word of Michelle’s stories.  Her next story is scheduled to be posted on Tuesday, June 19.


American Cancer Society Announces Dates for 47 Relay For Life Events in Nebraska

The American Cancer Society is excited to announce 47 Relay For Life events will be taking place this year across Nebraska with the goal of raising more than $3.3 Million to help fund the Society’s mission to save lives.

Relay For Life, the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event, is a fun filled event that mobilizes communities throughout the country to celebrate survivors (anyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer), remember loved ones and raise money for the fight against cancer.  These events have combined to be the largest cancer fundraiser ever created, raising close to $4 Billion since 1985 and will engage well over 5,000 communities nationwide this year.

“We are thrilled to have 47 wonderful Relay For Life events taking place in Nebraska this year,” commented Mike Lefler, Director of Communications for the American Cancer Society.  “Hundreds of American Cancer Society volunteers statewide will be working hard to make sure that their communities play a role in fighting back against cancer.  We hope that everyone in Nebraska will consider taking part in a Relay For Life near them to help in the American Cancer Society’s mission to save lives.”

The event begins with a cancer survivors lap celebrating those who have survived cancer or who are currently battling cancer.  Games, music, live entertainment encourage people all through the night.  Some teams also hold creative fundraisers at their camp sites during Relay.

Relay For Life’s Luminaria Ceremony takes place after sundown, honoring the community’s cancer survivors and remembering those lost to the disease.  Participants will circle a track that is surrounded with glowing luminaria that bear the name of someone who has battled cancer.  Luminaria may be purchased by calling the nearest local American Cancer Society office in Omaha (402-393-5801), Lincoln (402-423-4893) or Kearney (308-237-1631).

Also a part of Nebraska’s Relay For Life events are the “Fight Back Ceremony in which a community leader will inspire Relay participants with his or her own commitment and will challenge them to take a personal pledge of action (e.g., stop smoking, eat more healthy, exercise regularly etc.) in fighting back.

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life first started in May 1985, when Dr. Gordy Klatt took the first step of this 24-hour walk around the track in Tacoma, Washington raising $27,000 to support the American Cancer Society.  For more information on how you can get involved in Relay visit or call 1-800-227-2345.

Below is a list of all American Cancer Society Relay For Life events in Nebraska this year:

RFL of Creighton University, March 23, Kiewit Fitness Center (Omaha)

RFL of University of Nebraska-Lincoln, March 31, Cook Pavilion (Lincoln)

RFL of University of Nebraska at Omaha, April 13, Sapp Fieldhouse (Omaha)

RFL of Doane College, April 13, Fuhrer Fieldhouse (Crete)

RFL of Nebraska Wesleyan University, April 13, Knight Fieldhouse (Lincoln)

RFL of Omaha Youth, April 27, Omaha Sports Complex (Omaha

RFL of Gage County, April 28, Gage County Fairgrounds (Beatrice)

RFL of Seward County, May 18, Concordia University (Seward)

RFL of Adams County, June 1, Hastings High School (Hastings)

RFL of Dodge County, June 1, Memorial Stadium (Fremont)

RFL of Hamilton County, June 1, Town Square (Aurora)

RFL of Butler County, June 1, David City Track (David City)

RFL of the Norfolk Area, June 1, Johnny Carson Track & Field (Norfolk)

RFL of Sarpy County, June 1, Papillion-LaVista South HS (Bellevue)

RFL of Wayne County, June 1, Wayne State College (Wayne)

RFL of Cedar County, June 2, Haskell Field (Hartington)

RFL of Midtown Omaha, June 2, Norris Middle School (Omaha)

RFL of Webster County, June 2, Red Cloud High School (Red Cloud)

RFL of Merrick County, June 8, Merrick County Fairgrounds, (Central City)

RFL of Boone County, June 8, Boone Central Schools Track (Albion)

RFL of Buffalo County, June 8, Buffalo County Fairgrounds (Kearney)

RFL of Clay County, June 8, Sandy Creek High School (Fairfield)

RFL of Holt County, June 8, O’Neill High School Track (O’Neill)

RFL of Southeast Nebraska, June 8, Auburn City Rec Complex, (Auburn)

RFL of Saunders County, June 8, Wahoo High School (Wahoo)

RFL of Douglas County, June 9, Elkhorn South High School (Elkhorn)

RFL of Otoe County, June 9, Nebraska City High School (Nebraska City)

RFL of York County, June 9, York County Fairgrounds (York)

RFL of Washington County, June 15, Fort Calhoun Schools (Ft. Calhoun)

RFL of Hall County, June 15, Grand Island Central Catholic High School (Grand Island)

RFL of Jefferson County, June 15, Fairbury City Park (Fairbury)

RFL of Keith County, June 15, North Park (Ogallala)

RFL of Furnas County, June 22, Beaver City Town Square (Beaver City)

RFL of the Burt County Area, June 22, Oakland-Craig Schools Track (Oakland)

RFL of Cass County, June 23, Plattsmouth High School (Plattsmouth)

RFL of Cherry County, June 23, Valentine High School (Valentine)

RFL of Platte County, June 29, Lakeview High School (Columbus)

RFL of Knox County, July 6, Creighton High School (Creighton)

RFL of Cuming County, July 13, West Point-Beemer High School (West Point)

RFL of Lincoln-Haymarket Park, July 20, Haymarket Park (Lincoln)

RFL of Dawson County, July 27, Cozad High School (Cozad)

RFL of Thayer County, July 27, Deshler High School (Deshler)

RFL of Fillmore County, July 28, Fillmore Central High School (Geneva)

RFL of Kearney County, August 3, C.L Jones Middle School (Minden)

RFL of Lincoln County, August 4, Adams Middle School (North Platte)

RFL of Phelps County, August 4, Holdrege High School (Holdrege)

RFL of Harlan County, August 10, Alma High School (Alma)

For more information about any of these events, please call 1-800-227-2345 or log on to

Omaha College Student Survives Cancer and Gives Back Through Relay

Peart (middle) with her friends Heidi Murphy (left) and Stacy Dahlkoetter (right)

As a 25-year-old UNO student, Courtney Peart can come to grips with the fact that she will never have a child of her own.  She can take the years of side effects from medication, the endless hours in doctors’ offices and numerous tests to find the cause of her abdominal pain.  She looks back over the last 10 years and all that has happened with no regrets.  And this year, she is hoping to help others who have gone through similar circumstances by being part of the American Cancer Society Relay For Life at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

When she was just 15 years old, Courtney was diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful disease of the endometrium lining of her uterus.  Three years ago her symptoms worsened causing numerous surgeries, ER visits and thousands of dollars in medical bills.  At the age of 23, she determined that she had no choice but to undergo a hysterectomy when her doctor found masses on her uterus through an MRI.  On March 15, 2010, she faced cancer and fought with all she had. 

“I woke up and realized I would never have a child of my own,” she said.  “The doctor told me the masses were in fact cancerous but everything else was going to be fine.  We found it just in time and chose the correct ‘treatment’ for it.  Today I look back at my choice and after a hysterectomy, two oophorectomies, and being in full blown menopause at the age of 25 I am finally healthy and fully cancer free.”

In 2011, she hadn’t planned on participating in the Relay For Life due to a few school obligations that weekend.  However, her team captain asked if she would represent their team as a survivor, even if she couldn’t stay all night.  Even though she was scared and nervous, she attended and had a great time.  This year, she decided to be more involved because of her first experience.  She is a team captain for the athletic training students at UNO and is the survivorship chair on the planning committee.  With this role, she has the opportunity to plan special things to recognize fellow cancer survivors throughout the night.

Peart wearing hat made by RFL committee members Jackie Whelan and Stacie Weakland

“Relay For Life is a place where survivors can go and not feel alone,” commented Peart.  “They can feel like they have support and a new found family will emerge.  It is important for people that haven’t been diagnosed with cancer to remember that they can still be a part of something bigger, they can still help someone who has cancer and they can still make a difference.”

This year, students from all over Nebraska will be able to put down the books for one night and join Peart in the fight against cancer by participating in any of six college/youth events throughout Nebraska.  Relay For Life is a fun-filled, overnight event that mobilizes communities throughout the country to celebrate survivors, remember loved ones and raise money for the fight against cancer.  Relay For Life unites people from all walks of life at the largest fundraising walk in the nation.  Teams seek sponsorship prior to the Relay, all with the goal of supporting a cure for cancer. 

For more information about how to get involved in any of these events, please contact the American Cancer Society in Omaha at 402-393-5801, in Lincoln at 402-423-4893 or log on to

2012 American Cancer Society College/Youth Relay For Life Events

March 23 – RFL at Creighton University – Kiewit Fitness Center

March 30 – RFL at University of Nebraska-Lincoln – Cook Pavillion

April 13 – RFL at Doane College – Fuhrer Fieldhouse

April 13 – RFL at Nebraska Wesleyan University – Knight Fieldhouse

April 13 – RFL at University of Nebraska Omaha – Sapp Fieldhouse

April 27 – Omaha Youth RFL – Omaha Sports Complex