Walk­ing tall for can­cer

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Rhi­an­non Hor­rell

A SPRIGHTLY can­cer sur­vivor is walk­ing with pur­pose af­ter bat­tling an ag­gres­sive spinal tu­mour.

Avid tram­per Jack Wood­ward is gear­ing up for the Can­cer So­ci­ety’s Re­lay For Life, be­ing held at Mt Smart Sta­dium next month.

At 83, he has sur­vived a round of chemo­ther­apy and ra­dio­ther­apy af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with non-hodgkin’s lym­phoma last May.

“I couldn’t lie down – I had to sleep in chairs,” says the Ep­som res­i­dent, who also suf­fered from chest pain.

“The symp­toms took a while to de­velop. My GP tried ev­ery­thing in terms of di­ag­no­sis, they couldn’t iden­tify what it was.”

Mr Wood­ward has al­ways been ac­tive, hav­ing com­pleted a fun run last March.

Even­tu­ally an MRI scan re­vealed the prob­lem and shortly af­ter he started chemo­ther­apy.

“For­tu­nately it didn’t in­volve hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion. It’s amaz­ing the vol­ume of drugs they put through your sys­tem.”

Af­ter fin­ish­ing the treat­ment Mr Wood­ward re­ceived some good news: “They said I’d had a full re­mis­sion.”

He says the Re­lay For Life sends a mes­sage of hope.

“When I was a kid, peo­ple hardly ut­tered the word can­cer, it was a dreaded dis­ease with lit­tle prospect of sur­vival.”

But he says that has changed and the re­lay par­tic­i­pants are ev­i­dence of suc­cess sto­ries.

Mr Wood­ward and his wife Mary, who met through a uni­ver­sity tramp­ing club, have been tramp­ing all around New Zealand and over­seas, in­clud­ing a seven year stint in Pa­pua New Guinea.

Can­cer So­ci­ety chief ex­ec­u­tive John Loof says the up­com­ing re­lay is a fun event that draws the com­mu­nity to­gether.

He says it started in the United States when one man de­cided to run for 24 hours for a can­cer cause. “And then the idea blos­somed.”

More than 40 teams are reg­is­tered so far for the re­lay, but more can join.

“The num­bers are creep­ing up ev­ery day.”

Mr Loof adds that it is not an ath­letic event so will suit all fit­ness lev­els and ages.

The Re­lay For Life lasts for 18 hours, where groups of 10 or more take part in a non-com­pet­i­tive run or walk, keep­ing a team mem­ber with a ba­ton on the track at all times.

Funds raised be­fore the event are used for can­cer re­search.

Can­cer ac­counts for al­most 30 per­cent of all New Zealand deaths, with the five most com­mon forms be­ing col­orec­tal, breast, prostate, melanoma and lung can­cer.

The re­lay will be held at Mt Smart from 4pm on Fe­bru­ary 20 un­til 10am on Fe­bru­ary 22.

An­other event will be held at North Shore’s Mil­len­nium In­sti­tute the fol­low­ing week­end.

Mr Loof says na­tion­ally the re­lay raises about $3 mil­lion each year and he hopes the two Auck­land events will raise around $200,000 of that.

A sim­i­lar amount was raised by the Auck­land events last year, but he says it is dif­fi­cult to com­pare be­cause the venue has moved from Pa­p­a­toe­toe to Mt Smart.

Can­cer sur­vivors are be­ing in­vited to join the 400 me­tre open­ing or fin­ish­ing lap. Call 308-0494 or visit www.re­lay for­life.org.nz.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Im­por­tant steps: Can­cer sur­vivor Jack Wood­ward will be proudly par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Can­cer So­ci­ety’s Re­lay For Life.

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