Relay for Life participants fight back against cancer

NANAIMO – Cancer never sleeps, as those fighting the disease know only too well.

Cancer never sleeps, as those fighting the disease know only too well.

And so neither will those gathered at the Rotary Bowl off Wakesiah Avenue next weekend for the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life event.

From 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., teams will camp out and take turns doing laps around the track, honouring those who lost their battle with cancer and celebrating alongside others who survived their fight.

“It’s quite an experience,” said Linda Tesser, community giving coordinator for the south Island with the Canadian Cancer Society. “It’s an opportunity for you to share a journey you’ve had with cancer with others who have had similar experiences.”

So far 40 teams of eight-15 people have signed up and teams can register all the way up to the day of the event; those who simply want to come check it out are also welcome.

Tesser said the event includes three ceremonies interspersed with fun activities – a blues band will play until 11 p.m. and then a DJ takes over, spinning tunes into the morning. Tesser said there will be also be plenty of food for participants, including a midnight meal supplied by Panago and breakfast by Thrifty Foods and Cobs Bread.

Just prior to the relay is a dinner for survivors starting at 6 p.m., supplied by Coco Café, and then the event opens with a speech from a cancer survivor, followed by a survivor victory lap around the track.

The somber part of the evening – the luminary ceremony – takes place at 10 p.m. Decorated bags containing tea lights are placed along the sides of the track in remembrance of loved ones lost to cancer.

Dale Mlazgar, a member of the relay organizing committee and team captain, said this is the most poignant part of the evening for her, as it reminds her why she is there – she has lost her mother, father, best friend and a co-worker to cancer.

Losing so many people close to her has left a huge hole in her life, but during the Relay for Life event, she feels like they are with her.

“I still hope that some day we will be a cancer-free society,” said Mlazgar. “If the money I raise can save one life, it’s a life worth saving.”

The third ceremony is the Fight Back ceremony, where participants are asked to share one thing they will do to help fight cancer, such as quit smoking or exercise more.

“We know that statistically speaking, 50 per cent of cancers are preventable,” said Tesser.

The Nanaimo event typically raises between $75,000 and $100,000 for cancer research, prevention initiatives and support for people living with cancer. Registration costs $20 per person and each person is encouraged to raise a suggested minimum of $100. Please go to www.relayforlifebc.ca for more information or to register.