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Arlee community supports cancer fight

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ARLEE – Mandy Haynes-Belcourt sensed that something was wrong. 

“I had this feeling,” she said. “A little voice told me to get checked.”

She decided to make an appointment for a mammogram, but she is only 37, and mammograms, she explained, aren’t usually given to women under 40 unless they have a family history of breast cancer. 

“I didn’t have any family history of breast cancer,” she said. 

She decided to check herself, and she found a lump. She went in for a biopsy on Feb. 3. Two days later, the doctor called to tell her the bad news.

“I have a highly aggressive form of breast cancer,” she said.

She was immediately scheduled for a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy and the treatment has left her tired and nauseous, but she has her sights set on the future.

“I’ve got big stars on the calendar,” she said. “I’m done with chemo on Sept. 3rd.”

The treatment has slowed her down, which is a problem considering she is a mother of five children from ages 2 to 19. 

“Everyone has helped out a lot,” she said of her husband, family and friends.

Some of that help was hard for her to accept, including a spaghetti dinner fundraiser that was held on Saturday in the Brown Building by Spur the Cancer Out of Montana. The two-person fundraising team has helped people from all over the valley with the monetary costs of cancer.

“I didn’t want them to do it,” she said of the fundraiser, although she did attend the event with a smile. “They said I had to suck up my pride because they were going to do it. They said ‘we can’t take the cancer from you, but this is what we can do.’”

Leon Wieder started the organization in honor of the aunt he lost to cancer, and Jamie Sievers lost someone to cancer and wanted to help. The first fundraiser was in St. Ignatius in 2010. From there, they’ve organized big venue events like horse rides, rodeos and dances to raise money, but small town dinners work best.

“Spaghetti feeds are the best way to do it,” Wieder said. “Small town, low key, with paper plates and plastic forks.” 

Sievers said that small towns often come together to help people, which is why it might seem like cancer is more prevalent in the area.

“I think cancer is everywhere,” she said. “We just have a lot of dinners because we want to help.”

Businesses and individuals donated items to the family, including plants, quilts and a playhouse estimated to be more than 12 feet tall. Many people also volunteered to help with the fundraiser, including Mandy’s daughter Kody Belcourt, 19. 

“My mom is a strong lady,” she said in a bright pink shirt. “I’ve learned not to take anything for granted, and I’ve realized how much she does. I wanted to thank her for that.” 

Spur the Cancer Out of Montana has scheduled another event for June 20 in Charlo, the organization’s first softball game fundraiser to help the organization save money in their nonprofit account until someone needs it.

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