THEY ARE THE THREE WORDS that can turn one’s life upside down in an instant. “You’ve got cancer.” Unfortunately, they are words uttered all too often. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2014 there will be an estimated 1,665,540 new cancer cases diagnosed and 585,720 cancer deaths in the United States alone; ranking cancer as the second most common cause of death in the US and accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths. As disheartening as those statistics are, the good news is that there is hope, and people across the world are doing their part to help make a difference.
Every year communities worldwide participate in the Relay for Life, a gathering of community members that form teams and walk for up to 24 hours straight, raising money to help support cancer research and providing additional funds for programs that help increase the quality of life for those battling cancer.
But the event is much more than a fundraiser. It raises awareness and offers hope as well as honors those who have survived the horrific disease and an opportunity to remember those who were not as fortunate.
Kicking off each Relay for Life event is the Survivors’ Lap – those who have battled cancer and won the fight are honored as they walk around the track united in their common journey. It is proof to others that the battle against cancer can be and is won every day.
After the sun sets, there is a ceremony of hope as luminaria bags, often decorated by participants, are placed around the track and candles are lit to honor survivors and to remember those who have passed away. A solemn event, it is a Relay for Life tradition that is a favorite of many.
Bonner County resident Jane Gould is a regular participant in Sandpoint’s Relay for Life. She is a two-time cancer survivor, the first occurring at the young age of 29 when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer and the second time was 13 years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Having had several family members and friends also diagnosed, the Relay for Life is an event that is near and dear to her heart.
Jane is a member of the Bab’s Pizza team and has raised thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society during her years as a participant in the Relay for Life events. “Through the years I have raised as little as a $1,000 and one year was able to raise $4,000,” said Jane who has also won several trophies for being the top fundraiser.
This year’s Relay for Life will take place at the Bonner County Fairgrounds beginning on Friday, June 20th at 5:30pm and running to Saturday at 8am. There will be information booths and opportunities to learn more about how to reduce your risk of cancer, as well as an opportunity to join with old friends and make some new ones along the way.
While the money raised goes to the American Cancer Society, something many do not realize is that the American Cancer Society’s programs are alive and well and doing much to support those with cancer right here in Sandpoint.
According to Jessica Martin, the Executive Director for Community Cancer Services in Sandpoint, the American Cancer Society provides two programs to the local organization. “We have the Road to Recovery in which our volunteer drivers are trained and insured to drive clients to appointments,” said Martin of the American Cancer Society sponsored program. “We also have our Look Good Feel Better program where a group of ladies who are experiencing cancer can get together once a month under the guidance of our Licensed Esthetician Helen Tapp and receive skin care and makeup assistance.”
As for Jane Gould, she hopes to see many people at this year’s event. She said nearly every person knows someone who has either had cancer or been affected by the disease and she encourages everyone in the community to get involved. “I would like people to help find a cure by participating (in the Relay),” said Jane.
For more information on Sandpoint’s Relay for Life, please log onto www.relayforlife.org or contact the Relay for Life chair, BJ Tietjen at firstname.lastname@example.org.