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Conquering Cancer

Relay Finish Line

First, the survivors circled the track. Then the caregivers joined for the second lap. Then the parade of teams made their round, all raising awareness of the American Cancer Society.

Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus was the site and a sponsor, for the second year in a row, of the American Cancer Society Relay for Life – Rockville event. It was a fundraiser that brought together hundreds of cancer survivors, their families, community members and others who wanted to show their support in the battle against this disease. (photo gallery)

The event raised more than $90,000. Approximately 30 teams – roughly 250 people -- participated.

Speaking at a reception honoring cancer survivors and caregivers, Lillian Cruz, deputy director of constituent services for U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, spoke about the work her boss is doing in Congress to direct money toward the National Institutes of Health and to support the Affordable Care Act, which stipulates that health insurance companies cannot charge higher premiums to enrollees with pre-existing conditions.

Cruz, who spoke about her own battle with thyroid cancer, said she is one of 14 million cancer survivors in the United States.

After Cruz’s remarks, guests at the reception participated in a roll call of survivors, when they were recognized for surviving from five years on up to more than 26 years.

Following the reception, a formal opening ceremony was held. Nancy Coulter, chairwoman for Relay for Life, said the event is meant to symbolize a cancer patient’s journey through cancer.

A trademark of Relay for Life events is they can span up to 24 hours. The one held at Johns Hopkins lasted until midnight, with teams of families, friends, businesses and other organizations stationed around the parking lot and walking laps around the makeshift track. At dark, a luminaria ceremony was held, with candles illuminating white bags in honor and memory of those who have been impacted by cancer.

“The light and darkness of the day and night parallel the physical effects, emotions and mental state of a cancer patient while undergoing treatment,” Coulter said. “When you leave our Relay event, think of the cancer patient leaving their last treatment. Just as you will be exhausted and drained when you leave, so is that cancer patient after treatment. But there is hope in the new day.”

Relay for Life began in Tacoma, Wash., in 1986 and is now an international fundraising movement, with events in 5,000 communities in 20 countries. Relay for Life events raise a combined $400 million annually, with money invested in research, education, prevention efforts and programs to help cancer patients and their caregivers.

“Let’s never forget why we are here,” Coulter said. “Our survivors and those no longer with us are the reason we need to finish the fight against cancer. Each and every one of you is here because you feel compelled to make a difference, and together, we can.”

CATEGORY: In The Community