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Hargis named honorary Relay For Life chair

Woodbury Mayor Bill Hargis, left, is shown at last year's Relay For Life event. File photo

Bill and Joan Hargis celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary over the weekend.

A week from now the couple will mark another anniversary - one year since Bill was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

It's been quite a year for Hargis, a CPA attorney who is serving his fourth full term as Woodbury's mayor. He received official word of his diagnosis on June 19 last year. The next day, after first informing family and close friends, he made his diagnosis public in front of hundreds of participants at the annual Woodbury Relay For Life, an all-night fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. He told his story during a speech he was to give on behalf of the city.

"It wasn't easy," Hargis recalled, "But I felt like it was important for me to tell my story so other men out there 50 and older would realize how important it is to get screened and tested (for prostate cancer)."

In August, Hargis underwent surgery to remove his cancerous prostate. The surgery proved successful, but he would need several months of radiation therapy at an outpatient clinic in nearby Maplewood. To date, he's received radiation treatment on 38 separate occasions.

"It's scary to begin with, but it wasn't painful or anything," said Hargis, who is 60. "I didn't get sick from it, but it kind of wears you out."

Joan Hargis can attest to that. She said her husband, who is generally the strong one in their family, has relented in showing his vulnerable side during his treatment and recovery.

"Bill has always been the leader in our family," Joan said. "We've leaned on him a lot and he's done a great job. But now all the sudden, the roles are reversed. He's the one that needs the help all the sudden, so I think that was hard for him at first."

In addition to being a spouse of someone battling cancer, Joan Hargis is also the daughter of someone who lost their battle with cancer. More than 20 years ago she lost her mother to the disease.

"It shocked her probably more than it did me," Bill said, recalling the moment he told his wife about his cancer. "The whole process is scary, especially if you've lost someone close previously."

Fortunately for the couple, doctors informed Bill his prognosis was encouraging from the outset. They detected the cancer early enough that surgery was likely to prove a successful option. But that didn't make process any easier, Joan said.

For weeks after his surgery, Joan would do most, if not all, of the chores, help Bill with meals and anything else he needed.

But she didn't have to do it alone. The Hargis' said they received numerous offers of help while Bill was recovering from surgery and undergoing treatment to make sure he stays cancer free after.

"During this process we really learned how to be gracious receivers," Joan Hargis said. "Bill is always the one giving his time to others; now he had to learn to let other help him."

The Hargis' said they have always valued their faith, family and friends. But over the last year, they learned to appreciate all three just a little bit more. And they've learned to appreciate each other much more as well.

"It's the little things that you start to notice and appreciate more now," Joan said. "Just the other day, he saw me pulling up the driveway from the grocery store and came out to help me with the groceries. It wasn't a big deal, but I think we realize it's the simple things in life that you really do appreciate the most."

In addition to being back nearly fulltime at his business office and at Woodbury City Hall, Hargis is also planning to make a return to the Woodbury Relay for Life.

Last year, he was supposed to give his customary proclamation speech for the event, but decided to make it more personal.

This year, in addition to making the proclamation speech on behalf of the city of Woodbury, he will be serving as the honorary chair for the event. He will also walk the survivors' lap. He plans to field a team for the event as well.

"I think that what I've learned most is that nothing is guaranteed in life," Hargis said. "That you have to accept God's sovereignty in the good times and the bad."

"And that helps you appreciate the simple things in life even more."

The 2009 Woodbury Relay For Life will take place Friday, June 19, starting at 6 p.m. in Ojibway Park. For more information, visit