Cancer survivors are hope at Relay for Life

Last Friday, on the wall of the Le Sueur County Family Center building, hung three giant banners that signified the county’s annual  Relay for Life event: Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back.
Hundreds of people from around Le Sueur County celebrated life and gave thanks for surviving cancer. At the beginning of the relay, one of those people, Becky Kern of Cleveland, shared the fantastic story of her son Carter’s journey with -- and triumph over leukemia. Part of her speech touched on the importance of cancer research, one of the main functions of the American Cancer Society. She said that is why Carter is still here.
“The importance of funding research of treatment can’t be more important,” she said. 
As part of her story, Kern  said fighting the disease really helped her and her family become open-minded and really allowed them the joy of just being with family. 
At the Relay’s kickoff, Sarah Slavik who works as the coordinator for the Relay’s teams, read a moving story that answered the questions “Why Relay? Why an Overnight?”. The poignant  speech explained the parallels between the relay and a cancer patient’s physical effect, emotion and mental state while undergoing treatment. 
“The Relay begins when the sun is setting. This symbolizes the time that the person has been diagnosed as having cancer,” she said. “Around 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. represents the time when the cancer patients start treatments. They become exhausted, some sick, not wanting to go on, possibly wanting to give up. As a (Relay) participant, you have been walking and feel much the same way.
“The sun rising represents the end of treatment for the cancer patient. As a (Relay) participant, you will feel the brightness of the morning and know that the end of the Relay is close at hand.”
The healing impact of Relay For Life is created through the pocketbook and an intense connection among people whose lives have been turned upside-down by the dreaded “C” word.
On Friday, participants remembered family and friends lost to cancer using uniquely decorated luminaria. 
During the luminaria ceremony, the Relay also included “Messages to Heaven” where people would write  personal messages to loved ones who have lost their battle with cancer. Each message was tied to a helium balloon that was released as a group.
Fight Back
What ACS nets from Relay for Life fund raisers helps pay for clinical trials of cancer medication, studies of the impact of genetics and lifestyle on a cancer diagnosis and research aimed at developing treatments and cures.
Mary Cassem, the ACS staff partner, spoke about the importance of donating to events like relays for life because any dollar could be the one that finds a cure.
“You never know which dollar you give is going to make a difference,” she said.
To keep things entertaining for the walkers, events throughout the night included Zumba, Relay fun challenges, kids games, a dunk tank, massages, haircuts, a silent auction and swimming. 

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