Survivors unite at Relay for Life

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June 2, 2015 8:15 AM

Josef Jacobson Photos The Canadian Cancer Society's Relay for Life took place from sunset to sunrise at Bud Miller All Seasons Park on May 29.

After a long night of tireless marching, more than 250 cancer survivors and their supporters got to watch the sun rise over Bud Miller All Seasons Park together.

Lloydmister’s 15th annual Relay for Life was held at the park from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. the next morning with proceeds from the walk go to the Canadian Cancer Society. Organizers said they were on track to meeting their fundraising goal of $260,000.

“It’s always a very exciting and emotional event,” said Pam Russell, who came from Lashburn to take part in the relay. “I’ve been in it for 11 years. I’m a 10-year survivor from one kind of cancer and four from another and this is the way our family celebrates. The first year that I walked I was actually a Grade 2 teacher at the time and many of my students (came) out and I cried.”

Teams of participants walked all night in shifts, resting at their group’s tents and lawn chairs that made up a shantytown along the path. Food and drink were available to attendees and performances at the amphitheatre kept participants entertained while they caught their breath.

“It was absolutely beautiful. I’ve spent a couple of weeks in Lloydminster ... and you guys have such a passionate community out here,” said Melissa Gerwing, Saskatoon-based Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life specialist. “The support that you guys give to the cancer survivors is just beautiful to see.”

The evening’s events began with a Victory Lap for the survivors. They were led by a small marching band and two RCMP officers holding a banner reading “We Are Survivors.” The march was underway following some words from Lloyminster city Coun. Jason Whiting.

“I know cancer is such an evil beast and it tries to drag you down, and some of the evil itself tries to get into you, but I look around and I see such strong, compassionate and great committed people here and I’m so thankful that you are part of our community,” Whiting said. “It’s only (with) your support and the support of everybody here that we can truly try to find a cure for cancer.”

This was the first relay organized by Gerwing. She’s been planning the event since the beginning of the year and was excited to see the fruits of those months of work.

“To sum it up all in one word: ecstatic. I don’t know if it’s the coffee or what it is, but I’m all smiles tonight,” she said. “Even though it is my first, I’ve been extremely well-supported by the community.”

Gerwing has lost relatives to cancer, and seeing so many people attend the event touched her on a personal level as well. She says the 12-hour walk is meant to be grueling, with the goal of giving participants a small indication of the hardship that cancer patients experience.

For cancer survivor Pam Russell, the Relay for Life is a time of fellowship and solidarity, proving that strength really does lie in numbers.

“It’s kind of like a homecoming in some ways for many of us,” she said. “We are a very close-knit group of people because we’ve faced that adversity together and I’m just glad to see those people once again and reunite with them.”

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