Upshur Co. Relay for Life embarks on third decade

BUCKHANNON — Upshur County Relay for Life kicked off its 21st year Saturday in a luncheon held Saturday at The Way of Holiness Church.

WVU Medicine and St. Joseph’s Hospital sponsored the survivor’s dinner held as part of the kick-off celebration.

St. Joseph’s administrator Skip Gjolberg shared about how the hospital helps cancer patients and the community as a whole.

“I know some of you have been through a lot or you have your family who has been through a lot,” he said.  St. Joseph’s Hospital does offer some oncology services.

“We have a chemo clinic we do there on Thursdays so you don’t have to travel a long distance, you can stay in Buckhannon,” he said.

Recently the hospital updated the oncology department with new heated chairs for patients to be more comfortable in while receiving chemotherapy.

Two surgeons, Dr. Susan Long and Dr. Paul Brager (who is also a UHC physician) have helped many cancer patients in their careers.

One of the benefits of being under WVU Medicine is being able to transfer easily between institutions.

“If we can’t take care of you at St. Joe’s, then we look right up the road to  United Hospital Center which is a really nice hospital,” he said. “They have a really good oncology program and have hired a new physician there, Dr. Salman S. Osman who is a hemotologist/oncologist.

“If they can’t take of you, then you go to Morgantown where they have the West Virginia University Cancer Institute.”

One of the ways that transfer between the different hospitals is made easier is with the addition of electronic health records.

“The days of putting things on paper are gone,” he said. “It helps with what we call the continuity of care.”

This means that a patient transferred to Ruby or UHC or another WVU Medicine facility can avoid having repeat services done because doctors in other hospitals will be able to pull up the tests they had completed while at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

“It helps with reducing expenses because you don’t have to have repeat testing,” he said.

Another aspect of this is the patient portal, My WVU Chart.

“You get access to your medical information through the computer,” he said. “If you are interested in doing that, you can tell your primary care doctor and they can help you get access.”

The hospital has come a long way since the Pallottine Sisters came to Buckhannon in 1921 but some things will not change, according to Gjolberg.

“We are still a Catholic hospital; we are still a faith-based hospital. We still have prayer every morning at 8 a.m. and every night at 8 p.m.,” he said.

Today, the hospital has approximately 420 employees and is the second largest employer in Upshur County behind Upshur County Schools.

“With our salaries and benefits for people we employee we have about $25 million a year coming out in the community,” he said.

This year’s Upshur County Relay for Life committee is being co-chaired by Lori Harris and Daisy Hunt.

The theme this year is Mountaineer: Dream Big! Hope Big! Relay Big! and the committee is working to make the 21st year a success. The big event, Relay for Life is scheduled for July 21 from 6 to 11 p.m. in Jawbone Park but teams are working hard now to fund raise.

“We have a lot of plans this year and we are going to need a lot of help from you guys to make our plans successful this year,” Hunt said.

The Inlaws and Outlaws team are having a bingo on Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Buckhannon Moose Lodge. Doors open at 1 p.m. and concessions will be available. The cost is $20 for 20 games and the prizes include items for men and women including Vera Bradley, Rada, gift certificates and more. 

The annual Ultimate Indoor Yard Sale is being planned for Saturday, March 10 at the Buckhannon Moose Lodge. Teams are also selling chances for a car detailing from Rob’s Tinting and Detail LLC. The tickets are six for $5 or $1 for one.

Hunt is a 15 1/2 year breast cancer survivor and a big proponent of mammograms which caught her cancer early.

She went for a regular check up and was persuaded by her doctor to have a mammogram because at 44 years old, she was past time to have her first mammogram.

“At that time, the recommended age for a baseline mammogram was 40 years old,” she said. “Since that time, the recommended age is now 50 years old but if you have risk factors or a family history, they will start early.”

Hunt touts the importance of mammograms because her cancer would not have been caught until much later.

“Because of its location, doctors couldn’t feel it and ultrasounds didn’t find it,” she said. “The only thing that caught it was the mammogram. Everyone needs a mammogram.”

To learn more or to join, visit and like Upshur County Relay for Life on Facebook.

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