Cancer survivors share stories of hope at Relay for Life, area residents walk in support

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Participants completing the survivor’s lap.
Photos by Shawn Nowlin

Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event since 1985, returned to Salem on Saturday, June 9. This year’s event brought more than 600 cancer survivors, patients, caregivers and area residents to Longwood Park from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Among this year’s sponsors were the City of Salem, MEDECO, TMEIC, One Beacon and Mill Mountain.

According to Salem’s Special Events Program Manager Kathy Murphy, the purpose of Relay for Life is to “give an opportunity for survivors to celebrate what they have overcome in the company of caregivers, family, friends and other relay participants.”

Each of this year’s 33 teams had a member walk on the track at all times.
“It is important to support events like this because it helps get the word out and shows that people truly care,” said Carolyn Glover who represented Salem First Baptist Church. “Participating in the survivor’s lap was my favorite part of the event.”

Chris Green, a member of The Walking Hope Team, said, “I, myself, was a survivor of a childhood brain tumor at age 11. I do think that the American Cancer Society is a big reason why I am here today.”

After being diagnosed with cancer in December of 2012, Salem Relay for Life Co-chair Lisa Bain underwent surgery and treatment.

“It is hard to find anyone that hasn’t been impacted by cancer in some way. Having community support means a lot, plus raising money for the American Cancer Society helps fund research to find a cure hopefully,” she said. “Some of the money also goes to support programs that provide hotel rooms for those having to travel for treatments, for information and support groups locally.”
Six years ago, only two of Leslie McCree’s relatives had cancer. Since then, he says lung, breast and colon cancer has directly impacted his family.

“Cancer, unfortunately, is one of those things that transcends age, race and social economic status. Research shows that roughly two out of every five people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime,” he said. “We have to find a cure. In my heart of hearts, I truly feel that we will meet that milestone in the coming years.”

For Jay Smith, a 21-year-old Roanoke County native, June 9 was her first ever Relay for Life event. The Virginia Tech underclassman knows that her late mother would be proud of the health advocate she has become.

“I lost my mom to breast cancer last year,” she said. “She wasn’t just my mother; she was my best friend. The only way we are going to beat this deadly disease is to continue to raise funds to find a cure.”

According to Lisa Bain, people can make a donation to this year’s Salem Relay for Life until August 31.

“We are partnering with the Salem Red Sox for ‘Cancer Awareness Night’ on Friday, June 29. A portion of the ticket sales will go to our Salem Relay for Life,” she said. “We could not do this without the wonderful support that we get from the City of Salem. They provide the venue, financial support and city employees to help on the day of the event. We are hopeful that we will sell out the Red Sox game on the 29th.”