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Relay for Life fundraising surpasses goal at 10th annual event

Participants gather for a 10th anniversary photo. Those wearing yellow tee shirts are cancer survivors.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
They came for great entertainment, food and anniversary cake, but they also came to share stories, acknowledge milestones, honour survivors and remember loved ones.

Relay for Life marked 10 years in Prince Edward County on a warm Friday night under a cloudless sky on the grounds of Prince Edward Community Centre. Participants smashed their goal of $40,000 by an additional $7,000 with the final tally yet to be announced. Relay for Life in Prince Edward County has raised more than $1.3 million since 2009

“It is always about community, and I love seeing the community come out and be a part of this, for themselves, for their friends, for their family,” said Rick Zimmerman, co-emcee.

Prince Edward County mayor Steve Ferguson acknowledged that while he is appreciative of the opportunity to bring greetings from council, he said he looked forward to a time when there is no need to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society.

“The day when we won’t need Relay for Life is, I think, off in the distance,” said Ferguson, who noted the staggering statistic that one in two people will suffer this disease over the course of their lifetime.

He thanked the volunteers, the teams, community centre staff, and all those who contributed to Relay to Life in some form, but gave a special shout out to doctors. “They are helping those who are suffering and helping those who are recovering, because they play an important part in that recovery process.”

“Far too many of us here today understand how cancer can change everything, whether it’s through our own diagnosis or that of a loved one or friend. We are all here because cancer has touched our lives,” said Lola McMurter, fundraising specialist with the Canadian Cancer Society.

McMurter noted Relay for Life nationally is 20-years-old and over that time has been uniting communities across Canada with teams of families, friends and colleagues joining together to celebrate survivors, to remember those we have lost and to commit to raising funds. “As a community, we are bigger than cancer,” she added.

The Canadian Cancer Society is one of the only organizations that fights all types of cancer said McMurter.

“This means that no matter what type of cancer you or your loved one has, the Canadian Cancer Society and its volunteers are working to ensure that no one has to face cancer alone.”

10th anniversary survivor speaker Cheryl Brough of Hillier.

This year’s survivor speaker was Cheryl Brough, from Hillier, who spoke frankly, courageously and eloquently about her personal journey.

“I am not only a cancer survivor, I am a cancer warrior,” said Brough.

On October 14, 2010, Brough was told she had breast cancer. That evening she was informed by the nursing home where her mother resided that her mother had passed away.

“Over the next year-and-a-half, we [as a family] faced chemo, surgery, radiation and all of the side effects of each one. We faced each hurdle head on armed with as much information as we could get,” said Brough. “There were a lot of tears, but laughter and good times dried a lot of those tears, and I always tried to maintain a normal life as much as possible, and I still do.”

Brough spoke to how she eventually became a cancer survivor, celebrating with her family each year that passed cancer-free. She took maintenance drugs, had regular checks-ups and is dealing with lymphedema.

“Five years have passed and life is good, and I am well on my way to that 10-year mark,” she said as she recounted her journey.

“To be told you have cancer is a hard nut to swallow. To be told your breast cancer has returned is like a two-by-four to the side of your head. The worst words a cancer survivor wants to hear. Two weeks shy of eight years and I’m sitting in the emergency department at Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital in Picton, having breathing difficulties; with my husband by my side, being told this. After doing everything possible, my body has created mutiny. Rally the troops to prepare to do battle, again.”

Brough talks about her expanding family and a new grandson, who she describes as an angel and “her bestest medicine”.

“Then we hear the prognosis: stage four metastatic breast cancer, treatable, but not curable. Not great, but I hear ‘treatable’ and I’ll work with that,” she says.

“Now I am no longer a cancer survivor; I am a cancer warrior. In eight years, oncology has evolved in major ways, so if you think fundraisers like this one aren’t doing anything, think again,” Brough says.

“There are 217 people in this community right now who are driven to their life-saving cancer treatments by one of 80 of our local volunteer drivers through our Wheels of Hope program.” said McMurter. “Each year, the Canadian Cancer Society funds over 300 research scientists, and just recently, researchers discovered a four-drug chemotherapy regime that will significantly improve the life expectancy of those with pancreatic cancer.”

Emily Fennell performs on the main stage.

Those gathered at Picton’s rally enjoyed a stellar musical line-up, which began with The Reasons, who filled the night with familiar toe-tapping tunes from a range of eras. The younger crowd enjoyed Miss Emily (aka Emily Fennell) and Megan Hutton and Caleb Hutton of Instant Rivalry, and the Frere Brothers who topped off the musical entertainment.

One of several performances by the County School of Dance.

The County School of Dance treated the audience to several delightful performances by its young dancers, and the C&C Country Dancers showed how line dancing is really done. The jam-packed evening included a barbecue, anniversary cake and games, including a Frisbee toss, peanut spitting and whack the whipple.

C & C Country Dancers welcomed the public to join them and got a lesson in line dancing.

The first lap around the outdoor track is reserved for survivors, dressed in yellow. Following were themed laps – including the tin man lap and the bling bling lap. A luminary ceremony took place just after sunset.

The Black Crick Chicks

Some of the teams represented at the 10th annual Prince Edward County Relay for Life included the Black Crick Chicks and Friends, Brittany’s Buddies, Colleen’s Cadets, Black River Swans and Hineman’s Hunters.

Colleen’s Cadets

Brough’s advice is: “Don’t sweat the small stuff, embrace the good days and good times, and smile. Smile because that way the devil doesn’t know what you are up to.” She also follows the advice of her son: ‘We’ll take it one bear at a time, mum’.

County School of Dance performers

Leona’s Pearls team area

A few of the many luminaries lit at dusk in honour and memory.

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