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West Fargo teen battling cancer returns home

Paige Lazorenko laughs at something her boyfriend Riley Vareberg said during a cancer benefit held in Lazorenko's honor on Saturday night at the VFW Post in West Fargo. Josh Francis

Paige Lazorenko had a hard time describing what it was like to be back among friends and family in West Fargo.

"I can't even describe it in words," she said.

More than 1,000 people turned out at the West Fargo VFW Post for a benefit in honor of Lazorenko to help fund her fight against an aggressive form of cancer.

Lazorenko, 17, a junior at West Fargo High School, has been battling the disease since January when doctors discovered a cancerous mole on her body.

She spent the past six weeks in Memphis, Tenn., undergoing treatment at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

She said she's happy to be back.

"It's amazing, I'm so overwhelmed and grateful I have all of this amazing support," Lazorenko said.

Lazorenko will spend the next couple of months at home before she heads back to Memphis for another round of intensive treatment for several more weeks.

The benefit was a change of scenery, Lazorenko said, a welcome one.

"It's sad being (at the hospital) because you're around so many sick people that you just wish you could take it all of it away, I wish I could bring everyone here," Lazorenko said.

Lazorenko had visitors when she was in Memphis with her stepmom, Candida Lazorenko, including her boyfriend, Riley Vareberg, who visited her twice, but Paige said it wasn't the same as being in West Fargo.

"It was nice to have people come but then at the same time when they went home, it's sad because I wanted to go with, and you just want to come back home, " Lazorenko said.

Candida Lazorenko said the benefit lifted Paige's spirits and it was noticeable as Paige roamed the crowded dining room hugging friends and family and sharing laughs with them.

"It warms my heart, it makes me smile inside just to be able to see her be able to interact with her friends and get back to that sense of normalcy," Candida Lazorenko said.

The benefit included a dinner, silent auction and bake sale. The fundraiser is one of several that parents of Lazorenko's hockey teammates have helped put on in recent months.

Tammy Gasal, one of the event's organizers said there are several more planned in the coming months.

The Dakota Medical Foundation's lend-a-hand program has also matched $5,000 in fundraising for Lazorenko's fight.

"The situation itself sucks, but with having all this support it eases that fact, it takes my mind away from what's going on," Lazorenko said.

Josh Francis

Josh is a general assignment reporter for The Forum and the sports reporter for the West Fargo Pioneer. Josh previously interned as a reporter for the Reading Eagle in Reading, Penn. and worked as a freelance reporter for the Orange County Register in California. He welcomes story ideas via email or phone. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to

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