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updated: 6/11/2012 11:18 AM

Thousands will participate in Relay For LIfe events this summer

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  • Relay For Life events -- planned throughout the suburbs and throughout the summer -- support the American Cancer Society's efforts to fund research and programs to help cancer patients and their families and caregivers.

      Relay For Life events -- planned throughout the suburbs and throughout the summer -- support the American Cancer Society's efforts to fund research and programs to help cancer patients and their families and caregivers.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Luminaria line the tracks at Relay For Life events to honor those touched by cancer and to remember those who've died of the disease. Often, a memorial lap is walked in silence.

      Luminaria line the tracks at Relay For Life events to honor those touched by cancer and to remember those who've died of the disease. Often, a memorial lap is walked in silence.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • The first lap of a Relay For Life is a Survivors Lap, celebrating victories large and small over cancer. Survivors often are followed by caregivers.

      The first lap of a Relay For Life is a Survivors Lap, celebrating victories large and small over cancer. Survivors often are followed by caregivers.
    George LeClaire/Daily Herald, June 2008

  • Following the Survivors Lap, members of each relay team take turns walking through the night to symbolize that the fight against cancer doesn't rest.

      Following the Survivors Lap, members of each relay team take turns walking through the night to symbolize that the fight against cancer doesn't rest.
    SCOTT SANDERS/Daily Herald, June 2010

 
 

Nearly every weekend this summer, hundreds of people will fight cancer with each step they take.

As they circle high school tracks or walk through parks, they'll insist they won't stop until there's a cure for the disease. They'll walk through the night; if cancer doesn't sleep, neither will they.

The steps they take in the Relay For Life events are, of course, symbolic -- of their own journey through cancer, of their support for a loved one fighting the disease, of their memories of someone who lost the battle.

But each of them comes to the Relay having raised hundreds or thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society to fund research into treatments and potential cures as well as for programs that support cancer patients, caregivers and families.

Relay fundraisers began in the mid-1980s, when a surgeon in Tacoma, Wash., ran on a track for 24 hours to show his support for his patients with cancer. Dr. Gordy Klatt collected donations from friends and family to run with him for segments of the time and raised $27,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Today, there are more than 5,200 Relays, and the events have raised more than $4.5 billion since they began in 1986.

Last month, Klatt announced he, too, had been diagnosed with cancer. Cancer, it seems, touches everyone's life.

Today, area Relay participants tell us how they've been affected by cancer's reach and how walking in a Relay For Life makes a difference.

Chrissy Jonas, Carol Stream; Relay For Life of Naperville

It's always heartbreaking when you're in the waiting room at the hospital, awaiting the news of how the surgery went. We had found out my grandma had a cancerous tumor on her stomach and they were attempting to take most of it out.

The doctor gathered my mom, aunt and me in a private room. He spoke a lot about the surgery, but the only words I heard were, "We've done all we can do, but the cancer will win this time." Her case was time sensitive and we didn't know how much longer we had.

My grandma was my absolute best friend. I called her every day and visited her often. She was my superhero and had a huge impact on my life.

After the surgery, the tumor grew up her esophagus and it became more difficult for her to swallow. She lost more than a hundred pounds from not being able to eat. Shortly after Christmas, when all my family came together, my grandma went downhill fast. Before I knew it, I got the news that she passed away in her sleep.

Being a caretaker through her remaining months, I had become so close to her. I watched the cancer literally suck the life right out of her.

Cancer can change a life, but not your heart. Not once did my grandma take a moment for granted, which taught me to live life fully. She fought for nine months, just to see the whole family together one last time.

And if she could fight for us, I would do the same for her. I walk not only to end this horrible disease, but also to represent my best friend. She will always be in my heart, and to walk for her at Relay For Life brings her life and memories back to me. I will forever be a Relay supporter because I refuse to let the cancer win.

Kris Olson, Hoffman Estates; Survivor, head and neck cancer; Relay For Life of Palatine/Rolling Meadows/Inverness

I'm one of the lucky ones and I know it. I've survived three bouts of cancer in the past 25 years. I Relay because over those years I've seen the changes in diagnosis, surgeries, radiation protocols and recently a very exciting physical therapy option for my type of cancer.

These advancements don't happen by chance. It takes money. I believe that the money I donate to the American Cancer Society through Relay For Life is wisely spent.

I've had the privilege of visiting a research lab. I've had the privilege of being in an oncology lab as my team of doctors perfected an effective way to administer a very tricky radiation program. I've had the privilege of having that second, third and fourth chance at life.

I Relay so we can finally stop cancer in its tracks. When we put a lid on cancer, I'll pack up and go home.

Until then, I Relay.

April Sedall, Glen Ellyn; Survivor; Relay For Life of Wheaton/Glen Ellyn/Winfield

I Relay

• because I want to help people with cancer;

• because I've lost too many friends to cancer;

• because chemo stinks and I know we need more money to go to research to find better forms of treatment;

• because I saw the looks on the faces of my daughters when I told them I had cancer and never want to have to say that or see that again; and,

• because donating to the American Cancer Society via the Relay For Life gives more money right to the cause, so it makes more financial sense than donating to some other type of walk or run.

I Relay because what else can I do as a survivor and caregiver that has a big impact on lots of people?

Daniel Mulka, Lisle; Relay For Life of Oak Brook Corporate

I started with the American Cancer Society shortly after my dad was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma (brain cancer). I never thought cancer would affect my family, and the next thing I know, it was right there in front of us. It was a bit difficult for me, as I had just moved to the Chicago area and my dad was back in Michigan.

My dad was with us for 13 months after his diagnosis. I drove back as much as I could to Michigan and, honestly, there were only a few bad weeks in that time. I have heard a number of stories about pain and other troubles that those with cancer went through and, in all honestly, we were blessed that his pain was minimal (since there are no pain receptors in the brain).

I still Relay because the loss hurts. I still Relay because there are people going through pain and suffering. I still Relay because there are families that shouldn't lose the ones they love.

Lisa Petruzzi, Lombard; Survivor, breast cancer; Relay For Life of District 88 Youth

I participated in my first Relay For Life last year. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2010. My oldest son, Nicholas, was already very heavily involved in the District 88 event in DuPage County. Because of his dedication to Relay, I have now taken two Survivor Laps and volunteer with the American Cancer Society.

My youngest son, Michael, also participated in this year's event. We all plan on participating for many years to come.

I relay for more birthdays and to give back.

Nick Petruzzi, Lombard; Relay For Life of District 88 Youth

Relay For Life is by far one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in my entire life. I think everyone should be a part of Relay. The American Cancer Society is a great cause and a lot of money is raised at Relay For Life. At our event, we raised about $120,000 collectively in the past two years.

I Relay for my mom. She is my role model. Even though I do not always show it, I love her very much.

I was a part of Relay before my mom's diagnosis, but the importance of Relay For Life did not sink in until she was diagnosed in October 2010. On March 24, 2011, my mom told me that she was cancer free. I will never forget that day and where I was when I heard the news. That was the happiest I had ever been.

I now continue to Relay, not only for my mom, but for everyone who has been affected by cancer because I know how difficult it is on an entire family. I love my mom so much and I'm so grateful that she is now cancer free.

Michael Petruzzi, Lombard; Relay For Life of District 88 Youth

Relay For Life is a great fundraiser and helps raise a lot of money for cancer research. I Relay for my mom, Lisa Petruzzi. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2010. Once I found out that my mother had cancer, it made me realize how important she really is to me.

In March 2011, my mom found out she was cancer free.

The Relay event in my community raised more than $60,000 this year. All of that money will go to the American Cancer Society in order to find a cure for cancer. I strongly believe that people should find out when and where there is a Relay in their community.

Although I have only participated in one Relay so far, I plan on doing it for years to come. Relay For Life is a great life-changing experience.

Amanda Barngrover, Somonauk; Relay For Life of Kane County

There are two very important reasons I Relay For Life.

The first is my aunt. My Aunt Lori died from breast cancer and chondrosarcoma. Even though she put on one tough battle, the cancer still took her from us. Not only was she an aunt, but she was also a mom to me many years ago.

The reason she was like a mom to me is also the second reason I walk. My father had testicular cancer when I was a child. My aunt took us in and helped with everything my brothers and I needed even though she had two children of her own. She was a cheerleader for my dad, and with her and my Aunt Lynn, my father made it through. He is still here and with a lot of thanks to my aunt.

I believe Relay For Life is a great way to raise money for the fight against cancer. Although I am exhausted by the end of the night, I know it is nothing compared to the exhaustion cancer patients feel. My feet might have hurt, but that goes away. A scar from a surgery never goes away.

Cancer has hit my family many times, and hopefully with the money we raise for the American Cancer Society, a cure can be found so no one else in my family has to go through it again.

Megan Tracy, Aurora, and Alyson Cass, Montgomery; Relay For Life of Kane County

We relay for our mom, Lora Tracy. She was a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, teacher and friend. We lost her to cancer on Oct. 16, 2010.

She battled two different primary cancers, chondrosarcoma and breast cancer. She underwent various surgeries, received chemotherapy and endured radiation therapy. Although she was a courageous fighter, the cancer was unstoppable.

We will Relay on Friday, June 22, to continue our mom's fight against this horrific disease so that others can receive the support they need to battle as relentlessly as she did.

We are Lora's daughters, Lora's legacy and Lora's Fighters!

Doogie Mayberry, St. Charles; Survivor; Relay For Life of Kane County

Diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago, I wanted to do something to change the course of this disease.

I Relay because I am grateful to God that I am alive.

I Relay for those living with cancer and for their loved ones so they know that they are never alone on this journey.

I Relay for you to bring awareness and educate those you love.

I Relay for my dad, sister, sister-in-law and many friends who fought the battle so bravely and lost.

I Relay to raise funds to support research, advocacy, patient services and education that bring HOPE.

I Relay because I want to find the cause, the cure and to end cancer from ever happening to anyone.

Life is a gift and a great adventure. It is with gratitude that I continue forward and thank God, my husband, family, friends and all those who have touched my life in extraordinary ways.

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