Cancer sur­vivors and sup­port­ers cel­e­brate and re­mem­ber at Re­lay for Life

The Southwest Booster - - NEWS - JA­SON KERR SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

It was a somber, but tri­umphant day for cancer sur­vivors as they cel­e­brated Swift Cur­rent’s 13th an­nual Re­lay for Life on June 7.

Sur­vivors, along with friends and sup­port­ers, gath­ered at River­side Park for a time of cel­e­bra­tion and re­mem­brance as at­ten­dees walked around the park track long into the night.

“It’s kind of a thrilling feel­ings and also a feel­ing of be­ing tri­umphant over cancer, es­pe­cially the first time you step out on the track,” cancer sur­vivor and re­lay par­tic­i­pant Char­lotte Mont­gomery said. “This will be my fourth walk and the very first time I stepped on to the track I felt very elated and lifted up.”

Mont­gomery, who came from Morse for the re­lay, was one of more than 200 people in at­ten­dance. She called the com­mu­nity’s sup­port tremen­dous, and noted the event’s im­pact.

“You re­ally get your eyes opened as to how se­ri­ous the dis­ease is and it takes a lot of in­ner strength to beat it.”

The event be­gan at 6:30 p.m. with the sur­vivor’s photo, fol­lowed by quick speeches by Re­lay for Life Am­bas­sador Myshel Pa­juaar and sur­vivor Sheila Som­mer­feld. Both talked about their bat­tles with cancer and the im­por­tance of sup­port­ing people fight­ing the dis­ease right now.

“We’ve all been af­fected by cancer in some way,” Pa­juaar said. “It’s one of the things we all have in com­mon.”

At 7 p.m. the re­lay started with the sur­vivor lap. A to­tal of 90 sur­vivors walked and drove around the track be­fore be­ing ac­com­pa­nied by loved ones for a sec­ond lap.

“I think that’s a re­ally emo­tional thing, and es­pe­cially be­cause I fa­cil­i­tate the sup­port group, so I know a cou­ple of the new­est sur­vivors tonight,” Re­lay for Life or­ga­nizer Ar­lene McKen­zie said. “One of them she was di­ag­nosed a month ago, so I just know what she has to go through and it’s just re­ally emo­tional.”

Af­ter sun­set, lu­mi­nar­ies were lit around the in­side of the track in trib­ute to both cancer vic­tims and sur­vivors. For many at­ten­dees, it was an emo­tional time.

“That’s al­ways a touch­ing, touch­ing, time for me,” said McKen­zie, who also had her grand­son on hand to help her light their can­dles.

“It’s so hum­bling to see all the lights lit,” Mont­gomery added.

Things have changed for both Mont­gomery and McKen­zie since their first re­lays. Both say their ini­tial in­volve­ment was hes­i­tant and un­cer­tain. How­ever, they both say they’re glad to be a part of the event, and to wear the yel­low t-shirts that iden­tify all the sur­vivors.

“I didn’t want to be iden­ti­fied with cancer and to wear that shirt,” McKen­zie said of her first re­lay ex­pe­ri­ence. “Now, of course, I’m proud to wear it.”

“Any people who are sur­vivors are fighters,” Mont­gomery con­cluded. “It’s good that we have so many.”

Booster photo by Ja­son Kerr

A solemn Lu­mi­nary light­ing cer­e­mony was among the in­spir­ing mo­ments which drove the par­tic­i­pants dur­ing the 12 hour Re­lay for Life in Swift Cur­rent over the weekend.

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