The Times West Virginian

Opinion

June 1, 2014

Relay for Life: Get personal in critical battle to defeat cancer

The numbers themselves quickly grab your attention.

According to the American Cancer Society, there will be an estimated 1,665,540 new cancer cases diagnosed in the United States during this year and 585,720 cancer deaths.

Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease, accounting for nearly one of every four deaths.

It’s important, though, to get to know the faces associated with those numbers, and what better time than the days leading up to Friday’s Relay for Life at Fairmont State University?

This week, starting today, the Times West Virginian is featuring people who either have defeated cancer or have battled it successfully for a long period of time.

The most important message from these personal stories?

There is hope.

While it still kills far too many people, many cancer victims are being placed in the “survivor” category. There will certainly be no shortage of emotion Friday during the “Survivor’s Lap.”

There are no sure things in life, but more than half of all cancer deaths could be prevented by making healthy choices like not smoking, staying at a healthy weight, eating right, keeping active, being cautious about exposure to the sun and getting recommended screening tests.

It’s important to listen to our health-care professionals and follow their advice when it comes to such screenings as mammograms, colonoscopies, Pap tests and PSA tests — measures to detect cancer in its earliest stages when treatment is most effective.

Continuing research is essential for when cancer does strike.

Participants in Friday’s Fairmont Relay for Life, as well as those in the Mannington Relay earlier this spring, are part of more than 4 million people in more than 20 countries who raise much-needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer through the Relay For Life movement.

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, Washington, raising $27,000 to help the American Cancer Society fight the ongoing battle. A year later, 340 supporters joined the overnight event.

Since those first steps, the Relay For Life program has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, raising nearly $5 billion to fight cancer.

It’s a time to look back with respect as well as chart a brighter future in the battle to defeat cancer.

One of the highlights is the after-dark luminaria ceremony to remember people we have lost to cancer, honor people who have fought cancer in the past and support those whose fight continues. Candles are lit inside of personalized bags.

Earlier, during the Survivor’s Lap, all cancer survivors at the event take the first lap, celebrating their victory over cancer while cheered on by the other participants.

Relay For Life events also recognize and celebrate caregivers, who give time, love and support to their friends, family, neighbors and coworkers facing cancer.

For many years, so many have been getting personal in the battle against cancer.

Friday’s Relay for Life is a time to remember those we’ve lost, celebrate survival and and build resources with the solemn hope that more cancer patients will be cured and the disease will one day be eliminated.

We hope many hundreds from the community will spend some time — even all night — Friday at Fairmont State.

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