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Cancer Changes Everything for Relay for Life participants

There were fewer participants at this year’s newly-shortened Relay for Life event in Picton on Friday night, but energy was high and their desire to help conquer cancer, as strong as ever.

Doug Kane

At the opening ceremonies, Doug Kane, Canadian Cancer Society senior manager, delivered a message of gratitude, appreciation and inspiration.

“I love Relay. Thank you to the committee and the wonderful volunteers for their hard work raising money that is creating a change in cancer outcomes,” he said. “Our goal is to create cancer survivors and we can’t do it without you. If you’re like me, you gain inspiration watching the yellow shirts (cancer survivors) walk around the track. The more yellow shirts we can get going around the track the more momentum we’re going to have and the more money we will raise toward this cause.

“The tagline for Relay for Life this year is ‘Cancer Changes Everything’. Thank you for changing cancer outcomes in Canada.”

Colleen Galway

Opening ceremonies guest speaker Colleen Galway, a popular flutist in the County, is new to wearing the yellow Relay for Life survivor shirt. Her life changed in January, 2015 when a routine trip to the doctor resulted in a diagnosis of stage three breast cancer.

“I was only 43 years old and had absolutely no family history of any kind of cancer at all,” said Galway.

She knew something was wrong as she was feeling rundown, was a little more tired than usual and was losing weight, but chalked it up to a busy schedule. She was keeping up with two busy kids, training for her first full marathon, maintaining an active performing schedule and completing a second university degree at Queen’s.

“To say I was shocked was a complete and total understatement,” said Galway. “But once it wore off, I went into crisis mode… I was totally unprepared for the whirlwind of activity that follows a cancer diagnosis” – doctor’s appointments, surgeries and re-arranging schedules. “With the support of my family and friends I stayed positive.”

Early on, a friend and mentor from Queen’s asked her a question that would frame her perspective on dealing with cancer.

“Her question was ‘Two days ago, before you had cancer, was the cancer there?’ I responded that ‘yes’ of course it was already there. Then she asked ‘so why is it any different than today? Are you suddenly not able to go for a run, do school work or play with your kids?’ She was telling me to suck it up and in a world where everyone’s first reaction to telling them you have cancer is to feel sorry, or they start to cry, her perspective was refreshing.

“She was telling me there are two ways I could deal – feel sorry, or continue to be the person I’d always been and face my battles head-on.”

Amelia Lavender delighted with perfect bubble-blowing weather

Galway said she worked hard to maintain a daily activity level and finish her degree and continue playing concerts hoping her wig wouldn’t fall off.

And she continued to run.

“With the reluctant approval of my oncologist, I ran all through chemo and radiation. I wasn’t running far and I wasn’t running fast, but I was running.”

Even though she couldn’t run the full County marathon that fall as planned, she did run with her team, two days after finishing radiation, and crossed the finish line “feeling like more of a winner than anybody could ever guess”.

This fall she will be attempting the full marathon for the first time.

“With that run, I hope to close that chapter of my life that included cancer. That being said, cancer will always be a part of who I am. It changed me in ways that I’d never imagined possible. It forced me to dig deeper and become stronger than I knew was possible.”

She left the crowd with a quote she said rings true no matter what a person is going through: “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.”

Emcee Rick Zimmerman welcomed this year’s teams to the Relay track.

More than a dozen teams participated in this year’s eighth annual event in the County. They added nearly $41,000 to the more than $1.18 million raised for the Cancer Society research, programs and services, since 2010.

PEC Relay chair Tina Rutgers noted earlier the committee loves the nostalgia and the reasoning for the traditional 12-hour formula for the event, “but we were finding that there’s so many really good events and fundraisers in the community that everybody is getting spread out.”

Those attending this year were entertained with music from Mark Despault (above), Telegraph Narrows, Frere Brothers and Jamie Pounder.

Attendees were well-fed by the Prince Edward County firefighters hosting a barbecue.

At dusk, the special luminary ceremony reminded everybody why they put forth the effort. The lighting of candles in special bags (called luminaries) honours the memory of those lost to cancer and honours those fighting the disease.

The Survivors’ Lap is the first of the evening.



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