The Times West Virginian

June 9, 2013

Relay for Life: A reason to give thanks but much work to be done

Times West Virginian

— So much accomplished.

So much more to be done.

The annual Marion County Relay for Life was held Friday inside the Falcon Center on the shared campus of Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College — moved indoors for the first time because of weather. It was held three weeks after Mannington’s Relay for Life, also a growing, annual event held this year at Hough Park.

Emotions, as always, run high.

Relay for Life is a celebration for those who have survived cancer and an opportunity to remember those we love who have passed away. It’s an opportunity to raise funds in the ongoing battle to prevent and cure cancer, and both county events raise tens of thousands of dollars.

A highlight, as always, is the survivors’ walk.

Breast cancer survivor Sharon Maier showed her emotions at the Fairmont Relay for Life as the survivors took their lap around the Falcon Center.

“I was balling because I’m thankful for being alive and to see everybody,” Maier said. “It’s just like a big family.”

A big family indeed — the survivors and their strong supporters.

“Looking at all these survivors and all these people for us, it was great,” Maier said. “It’s amazing how many supporters we have — it’s really wonderful.”

Later in the night, participants celebrated the lighting of the luminaria — spe­cially decorated bags with candles inside to honor cancer survivors and remember those who have passed on.

We sincerely appreciate all who are involved with Relay for Life — from those who organize the annual events to the survivors, the volunteers and those who so generously give to support a cause that affects virtually all of us.

It’s not a one-day-a-year event; it’s a cause that requires effort each and every day.

There has been remarkable progress in the national fight against cancer. American Cancer Society statistics show the death rate from cancer in the U.S. has fallen 20 percent from its peak in 1991.

Between 1990-91 and 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, overall death rates decreased by 24 percent in men, 16 percent in women and 20 percent overall. This translates to almost 1.2 million deaths from cancer that were avoided. Death rates continue to decline for lung, colon, breast and prostate cancers. The drop in lung cancer is attributed to reductions in smoking, while the drop in prostate, colon and breast cancer is attributed to improvements in early detection and treatment.

At the same time, the American Cancer Society forecasts 1,660,290 new cancer cases and 580,350 deaths from cancer in the U.S. in 2013.

That means the spirit shown during Relay for Life — from education to outreach to research — must never fall by the wayside.

“In 2009, Americans had a 20 percent lower risk of death from cancer than they did in 1991, a milestone that shows we truly are creating more birthdays,” said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society.

“But we must also recognize that not all demographic groups have benefited equally from these gains, particularly those diagnosed with colorectal or breast cancer, where earlier detection and better treatments are credited for the improving trends. We can and must close this gap so that people are not punished for having the misfortune of being born poor and disadvantaged.”

Marion County has shown it’s up for the long-term fight.