Relay for Life raises money, awareness to help battle cancer

Posted: Friday, May 30, 2003

It might be difficult for most people to associate cancer with a celebration and weekend of fun.

But you won't find them among those who are organizing this weekend's American Cancer Society Relay for Life at the Skyview High School track.

The event, designed to raise funds for cancer research and education as well as community awareness about the disease, gets under way at 6 tonight and continues until 6 p.m. Saturday. It will include 24 hours of music, games, a wealth of information about prevention and treatment of cancer, unparalleled community camaraderie and, of course, teams walking the track for 24 hours to raise money for cancer.

Now in its fifth year, the peninsula's Relay for Life is an avenue to celebrate cancer survivors, remember and honor those who were lost to cancer, support those going through cancer and learn about prevention and treatment options.

Cancer survivors will take the first lap at 6 tonight. Community members are encouraged to cheer them on. What might be obvious in that first lap is how nondiscriminatory cancer is. It hits all ages as evidenced by the tiny tots to the very elderly who will walk that first lap. Kenai Peninsula residents might be surprised to find out just how many of their friends and neighbors are winning the battle against cancer.

While cancer may have at one time seemed like a sure death sentence, strides in medical treatment and increased awareness of the importance of things like early detection and proper nutrition in battling the disease have changed that.

In fact, while many people believe the myth that the risk of dying from cancer in the United States is increasing, the reality is the cancer risk for Americans is dropping, according to the American Cancer Society.

"Fewer than half the people diagnosed with cancer today will die of the disease. Some are completely cured, and many more people survive for years with a good quality of life, thanks to treatments that control many types of cancers," writes Dr. Ted Gansler for the American Cancer Society.

It's true that the number of people who are diagnosed and who die of cancer has grown but that's because the population of the United States has increased and aged. Cancer is more common among the elderly, so more cases are to be expected as the population of the country increases and grows older, writes Gansler.

That means sooner or later cancer is very likely to hit your family if it hasn't already. And that's why an event like this weekend's Relay for Life is so important.

First, all those cancer survivors who take the first lap are proof that cancer is manageable and, in many cases, curable. That's comforting and inspiring.

Second, the relay will help arm people with good information that, when put into practice, can prove to be powerful medicine against the disease.

Third, the relay will display how much community support and help there is for those who are diagnosed with cancer. That support can be invaluable as individuals and families fight the disease.

Of course, not every cancer story has a happy ending. One of the most memorable parts of the relay may be the 11 p.m. luminaria ceremony, which gives people the opportunity to remember and grieve for loved ones who have been lost to cancer as well as celebrate the lives of cancer survivors. The luminaries are placed around the track to light the way for runners and walkers.

The local chapter of the American Cancer Society hopes to raise $80,000 for cancer programs here on the peninsula as well as for national research during this weekend's event. All peninsula residents and visitors can be a part of this worthwhile effort by showing up at the Skyview track during the event. Your support can help bring research efforts closer to more cures for more types of cancer.

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