Cancer survivors and families celebrate and remember at Relay for Life

Staff ~ The Southwest Booster
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It was a somber, but triumphant day for cancer survivors as they celebrated Swift Current’s 13th annual Relay for Life on June 7.

Survivors, along with friends and supporters, gathered at Riverside Park for a time of celebration and remembrance as attendees walked around the park track long into the night.

“It’s kind of a thrilling feelings and also a feeling of being triumphant over cancer, especially the first time you step out on the track,” cancer survivor and relay participant Charlotte Montgomery said.  “This will be my fourth walk and the very first time I stepped on to the track I felt very elated and lifted up.”

Montgomery, who came from Morse for the relay, was one of more than 200 people in attendance.  She called the community’s support tremendous, and noted the event’s impact.

“You really get your eyes opened as to how serious the disease is and it takes a lot of inner strength to beat it.”

The event began at 6:30 p.m. with the survivor’s photo, followed by quick speeches by Relay for Life Ambassador Myshel Pajuaar and survivor Sheila Sommerfeld.  Both talked about their battles with cancer and the importance of supporting people fighting the disease right now.

“We’ve all been affected by cancer in some way,” Pajuaar said.  “It’s one of the things we all have in common.”

At 7 p.m. the relay started with the survivor lap.  A total of 90 survivors walked and drove around the track before being accompanied by loved ones for a second lap.

“I think that’s a really emotional thing, and especially because I facilitate the support group, so I know a couple of the newest survivors tonight,” Relay for Life organizer Arlene McKenzie said.  “One of them she was diagnosed a month ago, so I just know what she has to go through and it’s just really emotional.”

After sunset, luminaries were lit around the inside of the track in tribute to both cancer victims and survivors.  For many attendees, it was an emotional time.

“That’s always a touching, touching, time for me,” said McKenzie, who also had her grandson on hand to help her light their candles.

“It’s so humbling to see all the lights lit,” Montgomery added.

Things have changed for both Montgomery and McKenzie since their first relays.  Both say their initial involvement was hesitant and uncertain.  However, they both say they’re glad to be a part of the event, and to wear the yellow shirts that identify all the survivors.

“I didn’t want to be identified with cancer and to wear that shirt,” McKenzie said of her first relay experience.  “Now, of course, I’m proud to wear it.”

“Any people who are survivors are fighters,” Montgomery concluded.  “It’s good that we have so many.”

Geographic location: Riverside Park, Swift Current

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