The Times West Virginian

Opinion

June 2, 2013

Relay for Life: Celebrate survival and build hope that more will be cured

Some of them are people we may see every day.

But there is nothing characteristic about them to say they have cancer — or ever have had cancer.

We might be able to see ourselves in their lives.

Some of us have been encouraged to take the same necessary steps that they have taken — even though we don’t realize it. Mammograms, colonoscopies, Pap tests — the things suggested while we are fighting to eradicate cancer.

Marion County’s Relay for Life is coming up Friday evening at Fairmont State University. It’s one of the more positive things that takes place in Marion County each year, although many people who have not experienced “Relay” think it may be a sad and somber event.

That’s why the Times West Virginian is featuring a different individual each day this week — people who may be involved with the Relay for Life on Friday, people who either have defeated cancer or have battled it successfully for a long period of time.

This editorial, and the features that will  accompany and follow it, do not point out that cancer is on the verge of being defeated. How we wish that was true.

But the stories being published this week should let people know that cancer is no longer an automatic death warning. While it still kills far too many people, many cancer victims are being placed in the “survivor” category. If you don’t believe it, check the number of people walking in the “Survivor’s Walk” Friday evening.

It is quite ironic that in the 2012 Relay, a longtime member of the Carings and Sharing cancer support group — a woman in her 90s — collapsed and died. She passed away while being active on an evening when survival is celebrated and hope about even better news about battling the disease in the future runs high.

Heart disease has been on the rampage for years, while cancer is coming in a close second. Heart disease accounted for 597,689 deaths in the United States in 2010, and cancer was right behind with 574,743. Chronic lower respiratory diseases ranked third with 138,080 deaths.

Cardiovascular disease remains the largest cause of death worldwide, while cancer still is in second place.

But we’re not soft-pedaling the fact that cancer deaths still exist.

Hopefully that number will be decreasing as more scientific research becomes available on the subject.

We think it’s a good thing that people who have had cancer enjoy celebrating each year with a positive Relay for Life. One might find that many people they come in contact with each day might be among those taking part in the Cancer Survivor’s Walk.

Relay for Life has grown tremendously in less than three decades. In May 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Wash., raising $27,000 to help the American Cancer Society fight the critical, ongoing battle.

A year later, 340 supporters joined the overnight event.

Since those first steps, the Relay For Life movement has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, raising more than $4 billion to fight cancer.

We sincerely encourage all to participate in Friday’s Relay for Life and celebrate survival and build hope that even more cancer patients will be blessed with a cure.

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