Carson teams, survivors walk to get rid of cancer
July 21, 2010
Cancer survivor Veronica Sheldon found a lump in her breast through a self-examination in 2008 when she was only 35. As a mother of two, she was devastated to learn she had cancer.
“My grandmother died from breast cancer,” she said Saturday evening during the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at Edmonds Sports Complex.
“I would like them to find a way to get rid of cancer so my daughter and future granddaughters don’t have to go through the awful experience I went through,” she said.
“It was awful, but with all that, I’m still here and I couldn’t be more grateful. I’ll get to see my children and grandchildren grow up.”
For many cancer survivors, like Stacey Dutra, the battle has been bittersweet.
Dutra was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2008 when she was 44 years old. She underwent surgery and six months of chemotherapy before receiving a clean bill of health.
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“I am a walking miracle instead of a walking death sentence,” she said. “And I didn’t have any of the ugly side effects most people suffer from.”
Dutra who co-chairs the Carson City event with Michelle Bertocchi, joined the Relay for Life’s celebration for cancer survivors three years ago, just eight days after her final chemotherapy treatment.
Opening ceremonies included cheering and team-building with rivalries in full force as survivors and supporters celebrated life.
Dutra said cancer is sometimes harder on the families and caregivers than it is on the victims, so the special survivor lap is always an emotional experience for everyone who attends to celebrate someone’s survival.
“There are about 100 walking that lap while hundreds of well-wishers cheer them on. It is just as powerful for the spectators as it is for the survivors,” Dutra said.
Joyce Miller’s mother had lymphoma and went through treatments last fall.
“It was like the worst news we could have gotten. She’s going through maintenance treatments now,” Miller said.
The Relay for Life was a chance for her entire family to show support.
“I feel like I’m at a point with this where I can volunteer and help because of the things I’ve been through,” Miller said. “We’ve been through all the drama, all the ups and downs, so I’m doing what I can now.”
She was serving dinner to the survivors after the survivor walk. Even her son was a part of the support team as flag bearer for the color guard in Boy Scout Troop 42 during the opening ceremonies.
Jack Parker said he has much to look forward to, but that it was tough when he learned he had tongue cancer last August. He has been through chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and today, has no saliva or taste, but a good sense of humor.
“I’m like a raccoon, I’ve got to stay near water. I had to have a tube in my stomach during treatments and I lost 40 pounds,” he said.
Although he felt beat down for about five months, he is fine now and he even got his job back.
“I had a lot of family here so I had a lot of support through it all, and I’m feeling hopeful about the future,” Parker said.
Dutra said there were probably more than 1,000 participants in this year’s Relay for Life.
After the survivor’s lap, survivors were treated to an outdoor sit-down dinner under canopies. Meanwhile, the all-night relays kicked in for more than 70 teams, and the event was expected to conclude at 9 a.m. today.
“The relay goes on all night. The idea is that cancer never sleeps, so for one night, neither do we,” Dutra said. “Cancer is such a serious thing, so we try to have fun, but there are also deeply emotional and somber moments.”
The goal for Carson City is to raise $125,000 this year, and anyone who still wants to help may donate at the website, carsonrelay.org.