Powerful in pink—finishing the fight
By Caitlin Bittner
With the Relay for Life coming up in Prairie du Chien Aug. 2, a lot of attention is given to cancer research and awareness. One such person helping to focus that attention is Arleen Kozelka.
Locally, Arleen is known to many as the owner of A Cut Above in downtown Prairie du Chien, and if you’ve walked inside recently, you’ve seen her true colors. Pink and purple tulle drapes over poles and window frames, along with important reminders of the reasons to keep battling against cancer. Last, but not least, Arleen displays the words “Supporting the fighters, admiring the survivors, honoring the taken and never giving up hope” as her personal mantra. “I found it on Pinterest,” she added, smiling.
With all of her decorations and reminders, Arleen said that she gets to hear everyone’s stories related to cancer. “Everyone has their own story; whether it was their mom or dad, husband or wife, brother or sister—everyone is affected.”
Aside from decorating, Arleen and her staff have also been doing some raffle fundraising. “People can come in and purchase tickets to win a basket,” she explained, noting that you need not be a customer, just a fan of beauty products and candy.
Arleen cites her personal fight with breast cancer as her reason behind pushing forward for a cure. “I am a cancer survivor,” she said with conviction.
In 2006, Arleen received her diagnosis. “I was anxious and scared,” Arleen admitted. “It’s a scary thing to have to experience.”
After facing her own ordeal, Arleen has stayed involved in the fight against cancer. Three years ago she participated in the Susan G. Komen walk for the cure. “It’s a very powerful experience; everyone is there for one reason—finishing the fight.”
However, with the support of her family and friends, Arleen is now celebrating eight years of remission. “My daughter, Jamie, and her volleyball team did Digging for a Cure last year at the high school. I’m so proud of her. All the money they raised was donated to the hospital and used to get mammography gowns.”
In the past, other teams have come together in support of cancer and Arleen said that the color is something she really looks forward to seeing. “It’s very touching to go to a game and look out and see a sea of pink. That’s when you realize how many people have been touched by [cancer]. It means a lot when the community comes together; it’s nice to see.”
Arleen was also quite humbled by the assistance received from community members. “When I was first diagnosed, I was filling my prescription and found out that my insurance wasn’t going to cover it. Mary Ann Heisz who was working at the pharmacy spent hours on the phone getting it covered. We were both crying when she called me and told me that she did it.”
Heisz, who is one of the Honorary Co-Chairs of this year’s Relay for Life, now battles with her own cancer, B-cell lymphoma. “It really can and does affect everybody, that’s why we need events like [the Relay for Life],” said Arleen.
Seeing the strides cancer research has taken leaves Arleen with a lot of hope. “Finding a cure would be the best news,” she said, gazing ahead, seeming to know a cure will exist someday.
For people newly diagnosed with cancer, Arleen added that she was willing to talk to them. “I find it easy to talk about my experience and how I felt. It’s OK to feel afraid.”
As for what to do if you find out that someone you know has cancer, Arleen suggested just being there for them. “Everybody hears about people getting [cancer] and sometimes they don’t know what to say. I had one person tell me that they had avoided me. Don’t avoid someone, say something. It’s what they need. I’d give them a hug.”