Southwest stands united against Cancer at Relay for Life in Shaunavon

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It was an emotional weekend for the over 200 walkers who participated in the Canadian Cancer Society Southwest Relay for Life in Shaunavon on Friday night and Saturday morning.

A total of 16 teams took to the indoor walking track set up at the Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre for the 12-hour fundraiser for the Saskatchewan Division of the Canadian Cancer Society.

In keeping with the Relay's theme of Celebrate, Remember, and Fight Back, the evening kicked off with an inspiring speech from Kyla McMullin who spoke from the heart about her personal fight against cancer.

The 33-year old has been cancer free for over two and a half years, and she wanted to share the hope which drove her to fight during chemotherapy and other invasive treatments.

"Tonight as we take steps forward, we have one outcome in mind - to find a cure for cancer. And perhaps along the way our efforts and our footprints will continue to make things easier for those yet to experience cancer and treatment, to lessen their burden as we pave the way," McMullin said while helping kick off the evening of walking.

"You are allowing me the most amazing gift, an opportunity to pay it forward and a chance to give back," she said.

"I have one wish. I have a wish that by sharing my journey we all become motivated to pay it forward with whatever means we are able. And at the same time we become inspired to receive. To receive the blessings that come at the most difficult times and to receive the gifts that are handed to us in each precious moment. And that despite what we may be handed in our life, now or yet to come, that we are able to acknowledge the blessings in each circumstance, no matter how grand, no matter how dim."

McMullin experienced the lowest of lows by receiving her cancer diagnosis days after one of her happiest days ever.

"On February 21st, 2011, three days after the birth of my daughter, I was diagnosed with Stage 3A Hodgkin's Lymphoma. That very same day I became a fighter."

She had tumours removed from her neck and lungs, but also had an aggressive melanoma removed from her foot when a subsequent cancer was found.

However, she refuses to allow cancer to define who she is or what her dreams are.

"And although the scars remain, it is love and hope that continues to flow through my heart and veins, the damage done by the chemotherapy. These veins now serve as a reminder that I will not break. I will grow and I will continue to learn live's great lessons."

But she also said that she also carries hidden scars which she chooses not to share.

"Fear remains our companion. The fear of knowing that the cancer can come back. Yet strangely I remain grateful for my scars. My scars remind me of what can so easily be taken away, how precious life truly is, and that I'm one of the lucky ones."

McMullin found comfort in keeping a journal chronicling her cancer battle, and she shared some of the details from her journal entry three months after her cancer diagnosis.

"You will accept this burden as the brilliant opportunity it is. The chance to find the strength in yourself that you never knew you had. And you will hope. You will always hope. You must always hope. And you will fight. You will always fight. You must always fight. And if that bully chooses to show itself again, you will win."

"You will fight every single day of your life to be damn sure that in the end you are standing on top of the bully, screaming at the top of your lungs your incredible victory 'and you did it!'"

McMullin reminded the participants that they draw strength by joining together in the relay.

"As we stand here tonight, let me remind us all that we walk for a cause that not only represents hope, but it demands it. We stand here as inspiration, as change. We stand together. We walk together as a collective body. We are an army."

Carly Gowan, Provincial Manager, Relay For Life Canadian Cancer Society, Saskatchewan Division shared her appreciation for every individual involved in Shaunavon's event.

"You have no idea how important it is to the Canadian Cancer Society. The Relay for Life is our biggest fundraiser of the year. Without the funds that you guys raise tonight, and all year long, we wouldn't be able to provide the services we do."

Organizations: Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre, Canadian Cancer Society Saskatchewan Division

Geographic location: Shaunavon, Saskatchewan

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