August 31, 2004
Serving Western Deschutes County
Sisters, Oregon

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The contents of the on-line edition of The Nugget represent a selection among the stories that appear in the weekly print edition.

Marilyn Utzinger -- a cancer survivor who enjoys helping others
By Becky Coffield, Correspondent

Marilyn Utzinger is an active rider. photo by Becky Coffield
She's spunky and fun and knows the value of each day that she lives.

Marilyn Ball-Utzinger is, by any account, a survivor.

And she has a lot to share with others who are faced with the grim specter of cancer.

Born and reared in Astoria, Oregon, where she graduated from Clatsop Community College with an A.A. degree in Business and Education, Utzinger and her husband Carl did not move to the Sisters area until 1991. But in the time that she has been here she has left her mark.

She is an active woman, and truly embraces every day of her life.

Since her bout with cancer 15 years ago, Utzinger has learned to accept each day with gratitude.

"I appreciate the little things more now," she said. "Material things do not matter to me like they used to. I enjoy the outdoors and listening to birds sing. I feel like I have learned what really counts, and it's not the big house and all the trappings."

Because of her own experience with cancer, Utzinger is very active in the Navigator Program run by St. Charles Medical Center in Bend.

"Cancer survivors are paired with newly diagnosed patients," she said. "We go through training sessions that stress communication skills and how to listen. Sometimes I need to spend hundreds of hours with a patient, sometimes it's only a few.

'It's a very rewarding program," she said. "I'm not sure who benefits the most -- me or the patient."

There are two all-day trainings every year, which she attends.

Besides her involvement in the Navigator Program, Utzinger is a member of the S.O.S. group (Support Our Sisters) in Sisters, composed of women who have had cancer.

The group meets monthly.

Utzinger also has been an active member of Oregon Equestrian Trails since her move to Central Oregon. She and her husband Carl volunteered their time and talents for many years maintaining horse trails and working on the horse camps and corrals.

"It was both fun and hard work," she said.

She got her first horse when she was 14 and rode through 4-H, but she sold him to pay for her wedding reception.

"It was the dumbest thing I ever did," she said. "I didn't get the opportunity to own a horse again until after my sons were raised. After 25 years, I finally got a horse right before we moved here."

She rides now almost daily. "If you want to see what man has made, get in a car and drive. If you want to see what God has made, get on a horse and ride," she says.

Utzinger also spends time volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, although due to family health problems she has had to take the summer off.

She is very fond of her community.

"I love it. I love the mountains and being here," she said. "I like the people and the slower pace of life. I did all that hurry-hurry stuff for many years. I think it's part of what made me sick."

She said, "here I can slow down and enjoy life as it is. It's good to do things for yourself -- you can do that here."

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