Published On: Thu, May 18th, 2017

Relay for Life event has special meaning for area woman

LAUREL — Sarah Naeve’s life was nearly picture-perfect.
She was happily married to her husband, Mike, in 2015, and the two were busy raising seven children at their home in Laurel. Then, what seemed like a routine mammogram turned her life into the greatest trial she would ever face.
In 2016, a tumor in Naeve’s left breast had developed into an aggressive, fast-acting cancer. As a nurse, she never believed she would ever be told she had breast cancer.
She’d lost friends and family to cancer and had believed preventative medicine would keep the sickness at bay.
She had only her faith and family to help her through the difficult year ahead.
“I was scared to death,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine leaving my husband with seven kids.”
Her diagnosis frightened everyone in her family, including her children. Mike Naeve had a job working for the city of Laurel, which allowed him to be nearby and be more involved with taking care of the children when Sarah needed to rest and recuperate.
“With cancer, the first thing the little kids think about is mommy dying, and that’s hard,” Mike Naeve said. “A lot of tears were shed — we weren’t certain everything was going to be okay.”
The Nebraska branch of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the largest breast cancer organization in the country, reported in its most recent community profile in 2015 that Cedar County’s 4,392 female population sees five new cases of breast cancer diagnosed per year.
The report also indicates Cedar County is a medically under-served area, where women with cancer like Naeve’s do not have convenient access to proper care.
Naeve said there were many nights where all she could do was get on her knees and pray to God. Her faith kept her and her family calm during the most uncertain times.
And yet, the trials kept coming.
She discovered she was allergic to the chemotherapy treatment used to fight her tumor. When she went through the treatment, she would become very ill. She was required to take many doses of steroids and Benadryl to be able to keep going forward with the treatment, even though each dosage would make her feel physically weaker.
“The thing that kept me fighting the hardest was my kids,” she said. “I was going to do everything possible for them.”
Prior to her diagnosis, she got involved with the Cedar County Relay for Life event, which was held last year in Laurel. She was asked by a friend to join and become the captain of a team.
That endeavor resulted in the formation of Girls on the Run, which seeks to raise money to donate to the American Cancer Society’s cancer treatment research.
One way the group did this was by cutting Naeve’s hair off. At the event, participants could donate $5 and be able to shave part of her hair. The event raised $700, all of which was donated.
“I used my cancer to help other people,” Naeve said.
During last year’s Relay for Life event, Naeve led the group of cancer survivors in a victory lap to celebrate their fight against the disease.
Dennis Hart, Laurel, also participated in the walk and  had been diagnosed the same day she had been.
He had also been operated on by the same surgeons Naeve had on the same exact day she had her tumor-removal surgery.
Hart was in the operating room right before she was scheduled for surgery.
“My surgery was actually delayed, but I didn’t mind because they [the surgeons] were in there saving him,” Naeve said.
During the event, Naeve felt better that evening than she had the entire year.
“I felt fabulous,” she said. “It was such a good feeling.”
That feeling transformed into relief when doctors told her all signs of breast cancer had disappeared.
Through the ordeal, Mike Naeve said the whole family became closer to God and gained a new perspective on life. Sarah said she feels more compassionate toward the people around her and the experience has taught her to appreciate every day going forward.
Mike said friends of cancer patients should never be afraid to offer their help whenever they can.
“When people have cancer, other people kind of shy away. They don’t want to bother them,” Mike Naeve said. “Don’t worry, just be there for them. Check in on them.”
Sarah and Mike Naeve will participate in the June 3 Relay for Life event with their family at Haskell Field in Laurel. The event will begin at 6 p.m.
Girls on the Run will be in attendance to raise money for the American Cancer Society in hopes to completely stamp out cancer forever.