Swift Current’s 2014 Relay for Life countdown underway

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Cloudy skies and cold wind did little to dampen spirits at the 2014 Swift Current Relay for Life (RFL) launch on May 8.

Organizers, cancer survivors and supporters gathered to light candles, share stories and formally begin the countdown to the city’s 13th annual Relay for Life.

The event is scheduled for June 7 at Riverside Park, and organizers say they’re on course to repeat last year’s success.

“We’re about par for the number of teams registered so far, and a lot of the volunteers and survivors wait until last minute, so the night of (the event) they register,” Relay For Life ceremony chair and cancer survivor Arlene McKenzie said.

A total of 20 teams comprised of 270 people participated in last year’s event.  They raised $82,166, all of which were donated to the Canadian Cancer Society, and organizers hope to attain that level of support again.

“We’re trying to encourage people to register online, but there’s a certain demographic that isn’t comfortable with that,” McKenzie said.  “We just have to be prepared for the night, to really hit it.”

However, garnering interest for the 2014 Relay For Life wasn’t the only reason for the launch.  Organizers also gave cancer survivors Sheila Sommerfeld and Relay For Life ambassador Myshel Pajuaar an opportunity to talk about their experiences.

Luminaries were also lit in dedication to those who were undergoing cancer treatment, or who had died.

“I feel grateful,” Pajuaar said when asked about the event.  “Although I’m not going through treatments anymore, I know how it felt when you start out, and I know how important it is to have people (who) like you.”

Pajuaar, who was diagnosed with lymphatic leukemia, as well as flesh eating disease, at age 19, emphasized the importance of a positive atmosphere.  Now completely healthy, she said it’s important for survivors find ways to support those undergoing treatment, and RFL is one of those ways.

“It’s always easy for people to say ‘I know how you feel’ or ‘you’ll get through it,’ but it means so much more coming from someone who’s experienced those things, and who you can actually talk to about different procedures and actual things that are going on,” she said.  “I think it’s just a special thing to have in a not so good situation.”

The relay starts at 7 p.m. on June 7.  Teams of  six to 15 people will participate in an overnight non-competitive relay.  The night starts with an opening ceremony, followed by a survivor speaker and the survivor lap.  Organizers say 150 survivors participated in the lap last year.

Other important parts include the luminary ceremony and the signing of a petition against types of tobacco products.

This fundraiser is especially important since the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) no longer has an office in Swift Current, something the survivors at the event hope to change.  McKenzie and Pajuaar both said such offices play an important part in patient care.

“My treatments were in Toronto,” said Pajuaar, who moved to Swift Current from Barrie eight years ago.  “My mom didn’t like driving to other big cities, so the Cancer Society would pick us up, drive us to our appointments and then drive us home. They kind of became part of our lives.”

“For me, the biggest thing is awareness of patient care, and what CCS can do to help us,” McKenzie said.  “Right now we have a closed office here, so I hope that is going to improve.”

At this point, the focus is on getting people out for the event.  Pajuaar is quick to point out how much fun the event is, but also notes how cancer effects almost everyone in some way.

“One of the biggest connections that we have now a days, unfortunately, is cancer,” she said.  “Some people don’t like going to events that they’ve never been to, but chances are that you’ll find somebody that you know and feel happy to inspire others.”

Organizations: Canadian Cancer Society

Geographic location: Swift Current, Riverside Park

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