In the past six months, two people I loved died of cancer. Too often, I hear someone has been diagnosed with cancer - a teacher, a baseball coach, a child. We all know someone whose life has been affected by cancer.
It's almost time for the Cabarrus County Relay for Life. Everyone is invited to the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center May 15-16 to celebrate the lives of those affected by cancer, to cheer for cancer survivors and to raise money to help ensure there are more survivors in the future.
It's free. The whole family is encouraged to walk the track, enjoy live music and performers and bounce on inflatable games.
You may buy a meal or a raffle ticket to help a Relay team raise money, but that's optional. The main reason for Relay for Life is to support and encourage those who suffer from cancer.
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I talked with Julie Stephenson, librarian at Mount Pleasant Middle School and a cancer survivor.
For survivors, she said, it's wonderful to discover how much support is available.
It moves her to see total strangers willing to give their time to help. On that day, everyone is family.
Stephenson hadn't participated in Relay for Life until she was diagnosed. Now it's a lifelong commitment for her and her family. For cancer patients who feel well enough, she said, there are networking opportunities to talk about physicians, treatments, diets and therapies, and information booths.
Cancer survivors are the honored guests. But only a relatively small number of survivors have registered this year, said Heather Reynolds, chairperson of the Cabarrus Relay. The goal is for 1,500 survivors to begin the Relay and enjoy a free meal and birthday cake.
If you or a loved one has ever been diagnosed with cancer, go to www.relayforlife.org, search for the local event by typing in your ZIP code, and register. Or call Heather Reynolds at 704-796-5317.
People who have loved someone with cancer can honor them with luminarias, the illuminated bags that circle the track as darkness falls.
Stephenson had a great suggestion for luminarias. She likes to buy bags in advance and personalize them for the people she honors, with a picture or other decorations to show their personalities. If you know someone on a Relay team, let them know you want your bags in advance, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to order.