Thursday, May 12, 2016

Why Relay For Life Is Important

Watching as a loved one suffers from cancer is one of the hardest things to experience. No matter how hard you try, it can be impossible to help them. With today’s technology, finding cures is becoming more of a reality, but proper preventative education and awareness of the severity of cancer is still very important. One of the most popular events to raise both research funds and awareness is Relay For Life.

Relay For Life is a celebration for those who have survived cancer, and a remembrance for those who lost the fight. Here in Polk County, it is a 12-hour event that takes place once a year as a charity event for cancer research. Over the course of the night, bands and other live acts will perform, and teams of volunteers with be fundraising with food and games. While the night is full of fun events, there will also be moments dedicated to paying your respects to both those who have survived and lost their battles to cancer. Some of the most significant events are the survivor lap, the caregiver lap, and the luminaria ceremony.

Since cancer has impacted almost everyone’s lives, Relay For Life is an emotional event for everyone who attends. The energy of the event is truly something special, as it brings together our community in such a unique way. Throughout the night, it is likely that you will experience every emotion; joy, sorrow, gratitude, hope, sympathy, and love. You are guaranteed a hug from someone who understands your pain, someone who genuinely wants to make you feel better and remember your loved one at the same time.

Relay For Life is something that everyone should experience. This year’s Relay For Life of Polk County will be held Friday, May 13th at Janssen Park in Mena. The opening ceremony starts at 6:00 P.M. Relay For Life unites our community as we celebrate people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against this disease. Together with the support of the dedicated volunteers of Relay For Life of Polk County you can make a difference by attending and supporting this event.

I have been involved in Relay For Life since 2007. The number one reason I became involved is because my wife is passionate about Relay. She has such a passion for Relay For Life that it rubs off on those around her. Her passion stems from her family history. Her mother died of cancer when Gina was just 21 years old. Her father had colon cancer, and all three of her sisters have had breast cancer. She is the only person in her immediate family that is cancer free.  To read her story click here.

A number of years ago, Gina's sister Roberta got involved with Relay For Life in Enumclaw, Washington. For a number of years, Gina would travel to Enumclaw to be a part of Relay For Life there. Ten years ago, we learned that Polk County was going to have a Relay. We got involved in the 2007 Relay, and have been involved ever since.

In 2013 my Mom was diagnosed with cancer.  All of a sudden, the work that I have done with Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society came sharply into focus.  It became even more personal.

Because of recent breakthroughs in the treatment of kidney tumors I had hope. The procedure that the doctors used on her tumor is called cryoablation.

Cryoablation uses hollow needles through which cooled, thermally conductive, fluids are circulated. Cryoprobes are inserted into the tumor. When the probes are in place, the cryogenic freezing unit removes heat ("cools") from the tip of the probe and by extension from the surrounding tissues.  The most common application of cryoablation is to ablate solid tumors found in the lung, liver, breast, kidney and prostate.

The concept of cryoablation is relatively new in cancer surgery for any disease.  Traditionally, surgeons have treated cancer by literally cutting it out. In contrast to this approach, cryoablation is a different concept in that cold energy is used to destroy the cancerous tissue at the exact site where it exists in the body. Cryoablation is particularly well suited to kidney cancer.

Cryoablation is a very promising new approach to kidney cancer. This kind of new treatment is why I am a strong supporter of cancer research.  I have spent the last ten years doing all that I can to raise money for cancer research through the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life.  As I was researching this procedure I came across the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Library website.  I found these words about Renal Cryoablation that were written in 2008.  "Early results have demonstrated that it may offer an alternative for the treatment of renal masses with the advantages of minimal complications, spared renal function, decreased overall costs and equivalent oncologic efficacy. Long-term results are required in order to apply this minimally invasive technique to a broader spectrum of patients".  Just eight years ago the procedure that was used on my Mom was a brand new technology.  It has only been available in Arkansas for five years.

Several large medical centers have produced data demonstrating that kidney cancer is cured in approximately 97 percent of patients who undergo cryoablation with a follow-up of three years.

My Mom's doctors are confident of the success of the procedure. That gives me hope. I know that at Relay For Life events we often hear that we are raising money to find a cure. Cancer is not just one disease, it is many diseases. Sometimes when we see how many people are affected by cancer and how much misery suffering and sadness it causes it seems hopeless. In my work for the American Cancer Society people often tell me that there will never be a cure because cancer is a big business and the doctors and pharmaceutical companies would suppress a cure if it was found. What a sad way of life it is for these people who have no hope. Relay For Life events around the world focus on providing people with hope. Hope is why we Relay!

I like a statement that the American Cancer Society released recently.  "Together with our millions of supporters, we save lives and create more birthdays by helping you stay well, helping you get well, finding cures and fighting back against this disease. Thanks to research funded by the American Cancer Society, many cancers that were once considered a death sentence can now be cured and for many more people their cancer can now be treated effectively".  It is to simplistic to be focusing on a cure. The American Cancer Society is focusing on "cures".  The fact that many cancers that were once considered a death sentence can now be cured should give us hope.

The fact that ten years ago when I got involved with Relay For Life the treatment that my Mom underwent in 2013 would not have been available to her gives me hope. The 97 to 100 percent cure rates that have been seen with renal cryoablation gives me hope.

Now with my Mom's cancer diagnosis and treatment, I have even more reasons to work hard as a volunteer for the Relay For Life of Polk County. The procedure that was used on my Mom's tumor has only been available for a few years. For me, it is just one more proof that funding cancer research is so vitally important!

Just about everyone has been affected by cancer in one way or another. Relay For Life is a fun way to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society. There is probably no other cause that a person can support that touches more lives. Relay celebrates those who have battled cancer, it remembers those who have fallen, and it provides a way to fight back. That is why I am proud to be a part of Relay For Life. I hope that you will be a part of Relay For Life too.

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