Teresa Gamble is a survivor. That's why she participating in Relay for Life of the Central Peninsula this weekend at Skyview High School.
"I relay to make a difference," said the local Relay for Life board member. "I'm here and I can. That's why I do it."
Gamble has been cancer free since 1997 after a battle with cervical cancer -- the same disease that claimed her mother.
"It's rampant in my family," she said, citing that her uncles from both of her parents' sides have died of cancer.
At Relay For Life, teams of people camp out around a track and take turns walking or running around it during the 24-hour, overnight event. At least one member of the team is asked to be on the track at all times. This year 35 teams have signed up. The teams get sponsors to raise money and awareness for American Cancer Society for cancer research, support services, health lobbying, and counseling.
After she was diagnosed, Gamble said she had feelings of anger, fear and isolation. But by relaying with others who know what it's like to go through that, she found peace and strength.
"You feel like you're alone," she said. "It was very therapeutic to know others have the same gamut of emotions."
And Sandra Ghormley, an ovarian cancer survivor, knows exactly how that feels.
"When I had cancer myself I went through depression because it was rare and I lost hope," she said.
Ghormley said she participated in Relay for Life for many years before having cancer just because it's a good cause. After she was diagnosed she did not want to go because she was worried it would be depressing.
"I did not want to be around cancer or cancer people," she said.
But when a good friend convinced her to attend she was not sorry, and it was part of the process for her recovery.
"There was a sea of purple shirts and I recognized the faces in our community that have cancer. For me, through that experience, I found hope," she said. "I feel a huge draw to now be part of that sea of support -- to give back the things that I, myself, got."
She said that Relay for Life is not depressing at all, but an empowering and upbeat experience.
"We're there to party and have a great time," she said. "Celebrate, remember and fight back."
Last year's Relay for Life event raised nearly $120,000 and was attended by some 400 cancer survivors of the Central Peninsula, Ghormley said.
"We seem to be growing here and growing in a more positive way," she said. "People are coming out and wanting to support the American Cancer Society."
A particularly moving part of the evening is the luminaria memorial to honor and remember cancer victims. At 11 p.m. the luminaria bags will be lit around the Skyview track to represent those people.
"That's a sad time but that's the only sad time," Gamble said. "It's time for you to reflect on those you've lost."
"It's for raising money and also giving hope," Ghormley said. "To stop disease and pain so sometime, someday there's not going to be anymore tears."
Relay For Life begins at 5:30 tonight with a survivors dinner at Skyview High School. Opening ceremonies start at 6:30 p.m. at the track.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at email@example.com.
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