A SusanvilleStuff Feature
by Melissa Blosser, Assistant Editor
On August 4th, 2012 members of the community will begin their 24 hour walk to raise money to fight back against cancer, a disease that so commonly has affected many of our lives in some way.
To the people who chose to walk or organize the event, Relay for Life isn’t just about a 24 hour walk around a track, it’s about walking for someone special; a family member, a survivor, a friend, a pet or perhaps they themselves have battled cancer.
“All the survivors and the ones who passed have, will and are dealing with the pain and agony, we can all give 24 hours of our lives to dedicate 100% to them,” said Sarah Garate, the chairperson for Relay for Life.
Garate is familiar with what it takes to battle cancer as her father Bob Garate, has been fighting a cancer called multiple myeloma since 2001. According to Garate he chose not to do chemotherapy and the family believes it was the right decision.
“ I thank god everyday that he is still with us and kicking strong and living his life long love as an assistant fire chief for West Almanor Fire,” said Garate.
Garate’s grandfather Don Ward also died of larynx Cancer after being a carpenter for 25 years Garate believes being around all the asbestos got to him.
Patty Gunderson has experienced multiple fights battling cancer with in her family.
Twenty years ago this coming January, her then four-year old son, Gabriel Camacho was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. After the diagnosis the family spent the first several months at University of California San Francisco hospital.
According to Gunderson, Gabe was in intensive care and until a few years ago, held the record for the highest white count in a child with leukemia. His treatment included leukopheresis, blood transfusions and five years of chemotherapy.
“Many of the procedures and drugs at that time were new to treatment and we were lucky that Gabriel was being treated at a facility with access to the latest treatment options,” said Gunderson. ”Today, I am proud to say that Gabriel is alive and healthy with one miracle, Collin 17 months old and the second miracle due in October.”
Unfortunately in January Gunderson lost her dad, Joe Brown in a short but valiant fight.
“Many of the chemotherapy drugs were the same ones that were used 20 years ago to help Gabriel with his fight. Without the continuing cancer research for a cure to all kinds of cancers more and more families will be touched by this horrible disease,” said Gunderson.
Deb Vanderbyl is another local community member walking for Relay for Life because cancer affected a loved one.
Steve Jasperse was her cousin and was diagnosed with gleoblastoma (aggressive brain cancer) in November 2007. According to Vanderbyl he fought a valiant fight for 3 years living longer than any of the doctors thought possible, and Steve’s only wish was that he would not spend a long time ‘dying’.
“With God’s grace he was given his wish and he began the process of dying only to stay on this earth long enough for family to arrive and say their last good byes,” said Vanderbyl.
“Steve was a man full of love, faith, courage and strength. He lived his life to the fullest sharing his faith and abilities with those around him. My favorite memory of Steve is playing charades with the Pictionary cards on Sunday afternoons. My cousin, my brother, my friend… I love you always and miss you like crazy! I know you are by the Sea of Crystal,” she said.
According to the American Cancer Society Relay For Life is a life-changing event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.
At Relay, teams of people camp out at a local high school, park, or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Because cancer never sleeps, Relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length
“Relay for Life is a way to publicly connect with people from the community whose lives have been touched by cancer.” said Gunderson.
“Tears of joy, sorrow and pain are shared and twenty years ago and then again last year I was fortunate enough to live in a community of wonderful caring people. The Susanville Relay for Life continues to bring people together to raise money and share support and to help with the fight for a Cure for all cancers.”
Although every Relay For Life is different, there are certain traditions at all Relays, no matter where they are held. These traditions help participants celebrate, remember, and fight back.
Relay starts with a Survivors Lap – a inspirational time when survivors are invited to circle the track together and help everyone celebrate the victories we’ve achieved over cancer. The Survivors Lap is an emotional example of how Relay participants are ensuring that more lives are saved each year – like those of each individual on the track. We also recognize and celebrate caregivers at Relay For Life. These individuals give their time, love, and support to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers who face cancer. At Relay, people understand the frustrations and joys of being a caregiver, since the effects of cancer reach far beyond just the person diagnosed.
After dark, we honor people who have been touched by cancer and remember loved ones lost to the disease during the Luminaria Ceremony. Candles are lit inside bags filled with sand, each one bearing the name of a person touched by cancer, and participants often walk a lap in silence. As people take time to remember, those who have walked alongside others battling cancer can grieve and find healing. This is a time that truly highlights the importance of defeating this disease.
Last, there is a Fight Back Ceremony, where we make a personal commitment to save lives by taking up the fight against cancer. That personal commitment may be to do something as simple as getting a screening test, quitting smoking, or talking to elected officials about cancer. By taking action, people are personally taking steps to save lives and fight back against a disease that takes too much.
“I pray that this Relay will continue to touch, heal, or even just warm people’s hearts the way it did for me seven years ago,” said Garate.
The Susanville Relay for Life is scheduled for August 4th, at Arnold Field, for more information visit http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?pg=entry&fr_id=37136.