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Charleroi family joins in spirit of event

| Sunday, July 15, 2001

When Roberta Doerfler heard that the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life was coming to the Mon Valley for the first time, she told her family: 'We have to do this.'

They agreed and everyone assumed a role.

Roberta Doerfler joined the survivor committee, her husband, Gregg, headed up a team and her son, Brett, accepted the honor to serve as ambassador of the event.

They thought the event sounded fun and heartwarming.

According to Margie Smith of the American Red Cross, Brett will have the honor of carrying the torch for the first lap of the event, which is scheduled to begin 2 p.m. Saturday at Monessen City Park.

The Doerflers of Charleroi saw their involvement as a way to give something back for all those who gave so freely to them when their son was fighting bone cancer a few years ago.

'Everybody did so much for us,' said Roberta Doerfler, remembering the spaghetti dinner organized by Charleroi School District and the special things Make-A-Wish did for her son.

Brett Doerfler, now 12, found a lump on the back of his left leg while showering shortly before he turned 9 in January of 1998.

The family doctor referred the Doerflers to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Oakland, where he was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

'All the doctors said he saved his own life because he found it so early and was treated for it right away,' Roberta Doerfler said.

Brett underwent chemotherapy and after four treatments, he was told the tumor had shrunk. The physicians then operated and continued chemotherapy to finish out the treatment.

Brett receives check-ups every six months to make sure he is cancer-free.

'He went through it so well. He was so strong - nothing bothered him,' Roberta Doerfler said. 'We were honest with him. We told him everything.'

The Doerflers first heard about the Relay for Life from relatives who live in Maryland.

Their enthusiasm spread and as many as 10 friends from Brett's school will be joining the team to show their support.

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