It will be 11 years this August since David Mjelde’s mother died after a long struggle with colon cancer. He was just 7 years old.
It was his mother, Susie Mjelde Lindquist, who inspired the colon cancer awareness campaign called ‘Get Your Rear in Gear.’ Since its formation by her family a dozen years ago, the charity has spread its influence and financial support of colon cancer prevention and research campaigns across the United States through events that include the Mercer Island Rotary Run.
Her son, David Mjelde, a 2013 graduate of Mercer Island High School, aims to continue to make colon cancer awareness a major goal as he moves on to the next phase of his life. Mjelde will attend the University of Arizona in Tucson this fall.
He said he is considering a range if majors. Perhaps physiology or even sports marketing.
Although barely in elementary school when his mother died, he said he thought she was pretty special.
She was passionate about helping others understand what was at stake with colon cancer, he said, of her struggle to live. It was she who came up with the phrase ‘Get Your Rear in Gear.’ She was funny.
“She did not want anyone else’s 7-year-old kid to lose their mother,” he said.
When Mjelde was still very young and his mother was undergoing treatment, the family formed the “Susie Lindquist-Mjelde Colon Cancer Coalition.”
Mjelde said he has participated in many Rotary Run events. He has raised money for cancer causes on his own.
He said his commitment to the fight against colon cancer has grown stronger. He hopes that he can establish an event, perhaps in Tucson, to further fundraising and awareness of the disease.
In the years that have followed his mother’s death, Mjelde misses his mother in a different sort of way.
“Now, as I get older, I can’t remember her very well anymore,” he said. “Luckily, my family can step in and tell me the stories all over again.”
David Mjelde was born 12 years after his brother, Gavin, and is 16 years younger than his sister, Heather.
When his mother died in 2002, Mjelde was with his aunt Kristin Tabor at a Target store on an errand on their way to see her. The 7-year-old was suddenly sick and threw up. It turned out that it was the same moment his mother had died.
A few months after her death, his father married the spouse of another colon cancer victim. The two formed a lively new clan from the tragedies.
Yet, Mjelde said that the loss of his mother taught him that he had to be independent. He felt he did not have that one parent who was tapping on his shoulder to monitor his life.
“I learned that I had to be in charge. I had to be the one to study, keep myself healthy, study and handle the social life,” he said.
As independent as he is, he values the connections with others.
“Connectedness is very important to me. It is something I value,” he said.
As Mjelde heads to college, he will be near his grandparents. The spirit of his mother and legacy will be there with him, too.