Relay For Life unites community

As of Monday, participating teams in Relay For Life Comox Valley had raised more than $71,000 for cancer research, treatment and services.

Leading the charge, at $31,364 and counting, is the Ladies Who Fight — a 13-member team that has raised more than $100,000 in four years.

“Ten of us are breast cancer survivors,” team captain Terri Welsh said Saturday at the Vanier track. “We connected through cancer…Now we feel like we’ve known each other forever.”

An offshoot of the Ladies Who Fight relay team is the Bonded by Breast Cancer support group.

“There’s 62 of us on there,” said Welsh, who has been involved in Relay For Life for five years.

“My first year I did it as a volunteer. I was about a year into my cancer journey, and I wasn’t ready for ‘the lap.’ And then the next year we started the team.”

This was the 17th consecutive year of Relay, which used to run from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. This year, it ran from 4 p.m. to midnight. As per tradition, the track was lined with candles, or luminaries, to honour those who have passed, and those who live with cancer.

Saturday’s walk began with the Survivors’ Lap, backed by the voice of Helen Austin singing her song, Relay For Life, accompanied by her children, Daisy and Charlie.

With arms linked, members of the Hope Afloat dragon boat team walked the customary, opening lap. The group consists mostly of women who have had some form of cancer, along with several associates. Hope Afloat originally formed as a breast cancer team in 2001, but eventually the parameters changed to all forms of cancer.

“Cancer’s cancer, that’s what it is. All ages, and stages, and sizes and shapes,” said team member Leona Peter, who had just lost her husband when she moved to the Valley. “I had been two years cancer-free. My breast cancer support team was my personal support team as well. So that was great, they’re absolutely amazing.”

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, one in two Canadians will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime. In the 1940s, the survival rate for Canadians with cancer was about 25 per cent. Today, more than 60 per cent of those diagnosed will survive at least five years after their diagnosis.

During Relay For Life, walkers across Canada raise funds for cancer research, and services such as transportation to treatment and peer support programs. Last year, 110,000 youths and adults in communities across the country raised $25 million.


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