With 32 teams and 349 participants raising over $61,440, the 14th Annual Relay for Life event held at the Milford Middle School was once again a success. The monies raised from the evening’s event will allow for cancer research, education and direct services to cancer patients through American Cancer Society programs. With 1.2 million newly diagnosed cases expected this year alone, Relay for Life participants walked the track all night long because “cancer never sleeps.”
The opening ceremony began with the sounding of the memory bell, as each resounding tone was played for an individual in the Milford community that has lost their life to cancer. Individuals remembered included James Adams, Bill Breneck, Betty Corbet, Wayne Corbet, Janice Crouch, Kimberley Coverdale, Mike Donovan, Thomas Eldred, Carolyn Frick, Bryan Killen, Frannie Mae Kramer, Dawn Lathrop, Jim Lathrop, Malcolm McClain, Robert Nelson, Mary Pardoe, Dr. Joyce Emory Perry, Evelyn Piatkowski,Terry Pikus, Fred Rohm and Marty Rothermel.
Delaware State Lead Ambassador for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (CAN), Cindy Canevari spoke to the crowd about her role in advocating funding from local, state and federal legislators. A survivor of both breast cancer and bladder cancer, Cindy stressed the importance for cancer screenings and research. She is currently working to help pass U.S. Senate Bill 94, which prohibits tanning bed use for minors under the age of eighteen.
The honored guest speaker of this year’s event was Nancy Casper, a mother of two who was diagnosed with cancer just last year. Nancy was first affected by cancer in 1996 when her father was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. After surgery and 45 radiation treatments, he was cancer free and has been for the last 17 years. Seeing such a miraculous recovery in her father, she never imagined that the disease would strike her family again. In January of 2012, at the age of 39, Nancy was diagnosed herself with colorectal cancer after surgeons removed a three-centimeter polyp from her colon during a colonoscopy.
“I have always been pretty strong but at that moment I was so weak and vulnerable, I just could not wrap my head around what had just happened,” commented Casper referring to the moment her doctor diagnosed her with cancer. “All I could think of was our kids, I was terrified they would have to grow up without me. The little ones were three and a half and five, would they even remember me ?”
With surgery, doctors removed about a foot of Nancy’s colon and reconnected her small intestine to a bag, to reduce the risk of infection. The surgeon also removed 13 lymph nodes and explored the nearby organs for signs of cancer, which there were none. In October of 2012 the surgery was reversed, reconnecting the colon to the small intestine and Nancy has been recovering since.
“Sometimes I feel guilty that my circumstances were so good,” commented Nancy. “Now by no means were the surgeries easy but I did not have to have radiation and/or chemo like many of you fellow survivors have had to have. But twenty years ago my situation would not have been as good. Hopefully years from now we have a cure to cancer, that is why we Relay.”
Nancy held the Relay for Life banner as she and fellow cancer survivors led the ceremony in the inaugural Survivors Lap. The survivors lap helps survivors realize their accomplishments and celebrate what they have overcome while giving hope and inspiration to others by proving that cancer can be beat. Survivors from this year’s event included Charlotte Alfele, George Babel, Linda Bools, Donald Boucek, Donna Boucek, Carl Bouchard, Janet Bouchard, Shelle Brinsfield, Dottie Burke, Neil Burke, Cindy Canveari, Cynthia Canveari, Gina Carey, Nancy Casper, Dorothy Chimienti, Cheryl Clauser, Cal Clendaniel, Ginny Clendaniel, Chantoni Cummings, Loretta Darden, Bonnie De Mar, Sally Dodenhoff, Patricia Donnelly, Beverly Ellerbusch, David Evans, Doris Fry, Selena Fry, Linda Goodnight, Patricia Hamilton, Robert Hampton, William Harris, Linda Hayes, Lee Herrera, Joan Higgins, Lorraine Hutson, Fran Johnson, Rich Kaminski, Joseph Kelley, Kathleen Kennard, Antonia King, Marlene Kosnac, Stephen Kosnac, Pat Lankford, Harold Levin, Cindy Lupinetti, Barry McCole, Kay Meade, Tom Melvin, Nancy Meredith, Savannah Messick, Lynn Morean, Myron Morgan, Kathryn Murphy , Amanda Parisi, Bobbi Pavlak , Wendy Pizzadili, Starla Plummer, Mary Roberts, Deborah Scanlan, Loretta Seiverd, Deborah Shelton, Danielle Siok, Jean Spanos, Michelle Spong, Michelle Stevenson, Mike Van Vliet, Huie White, Nancy White, Marie Wilkison, Bruce Williamson, Bonnie Wilson and Stephen Yanek.
As the sun set over the Milford Middle School, the night sky became bright from illuminated bags placed on the stadium bleachers. The Luminaria Ceremony is targeted toward “Remember.” Luminaria bags were decorated by participants, honoring a loved one who has passed or is fighting the disease. The Relay For Life event continued overnight as individuals and teams camped out around the track of the Milford Middle School, with the goal of keeping at least one team member on the track or pathway at all times throughout the evening.
Relay celebrates people who have battled cancer, remembers loved ones lost, and provides participants with an opportunity to fight back against the disease. All of these efforts are aimed at furthering the American Cancer Society’s vision of “a world with less cancer and more birthdays.”