Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Relay For Life Speech

I have been asked to give a talk about Relay For Life at the Quality of Life lunch. These are my remarks.

I have been asked to tell you a bit about Relay For Life. I have been a Relay For Life volunteer for the past ten years. Relay For Life is about people making a difference right here in Polk County. The 2017 Relay For Life of Polk County will be held in Janssen Park on Friday, May 12th.

So what exactly is Relay For Life? I hope that many of you have attended Relay For Life here in Polk County over the last ten years. The first Relay was organized here in Mena in 2006 culminating in the first ever Relay in Polk County being held in Janssen Park in April of 2007.

In a nutshell, a Relay event consists of teams walking around a track in relay fashion. At least one person from each team is to be walking. But Relay is much more than a walk around a track; Relay is a time to celebrate those who have battled cancer, remember those lost and get inspired to fight back. People who have shared the same experiences find common ground, hope, and healing at Relay.

If you have been into local banks, the hospital, and many other places around town you know that Relay for Life is about fundraising. Relay For Life is the main form of fundraising for the American Cancer Society. Every dollar raised makes a difference to people in our community whose lives are touched by cancer. The Society has contributed to almost every major discovery in cancer research. Millions of lives have been saved as a result, including people you may know. For those people and countless others, the research the Society has funded is resulting in better ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancer.

I have heard people in our community talk about Relay For Life in a negative way. The most common complaint is that the money doesn’t stay in our community. One of the first things that people ask, and rightly so, is how is the money raised by Relay used. One of the main things that Relay donations are used for is cancer research. Although the money doesn’t stay locally, cancer research affects every cancer patient in Polk County along with their friends and family.

To give you an idea why cancer research is so important and why you should support Relay For Life, I want to tell you a personal story. In January of 2013, my Mom had a CT scan. Although the doctor didn't find what he was looking for, the CT scan showed a large tumor on one of her kidneys. She was immediately sent to a specialist who referred her to another specialist, and less than a week after the CT scan, she was scheduled for surgery.

The surgical procedure that the doctors used on my Mom is called cryoablation. It is a relatively new treatment for cancer. Traditionally, surgeons have treated cancer by literally cutting it out. In contrast to this approach, cryoablation is a different concept. 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.

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 cryoablation, I found out that it was a brand new procedure in 2008.  It didn’t become a widely available treatment until 2011, just two years before my Mom was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Without this new treatment that was a direct result of cancer research, my Mom’s treatment would have been surgery to remove the kidney followed by chemo and or radiation. With cryoablation, there was no additional treatment necessary.

Data shows that kidney cancer is cured in over 98 percent of patients who undergo cryoablation with a follow-up of three years. Because it is such a new procedure, ten-year follow-up information on patients having undergone cryoablation is not yet available.

Relay For Life has another side besides fundraising. Relay brings people together and empowers them. We have a slogan. Celebrate - Remember - Fight Back.

A cancer survivor's recovery involves much more than medical treatments - it takes hope to heal. By participating in the Relay For Life, those touched by cancer can feel empowered to fight back against this disease. My sister-in-law was one of those people who felt empowered by Relay For Life. When she participated in Relay, she felt that she was making a difference. She was fighting back. It gave her hope.

Her life was saved by a bone marrow transplant twenty years after her mother was a part of an American Cancer Society research project. Her mother died of leukemia but the research she was a part of saved not just one family member’s life, but two.

At Relay For Life events, we often hear that we are raising money to find a cure. But cancer is not just one disease; it is many many diseases. 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 too 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.

No single nongovernmental, organization in the U.S. has invested more to find the causes and cures of cancer than the American Cancer Society. In fact, The American Cancer Society has helped make possible almost every major cancer research breakthrough since 1946.

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 were found. What a sad way of life it is for these people who have no hope. One of the things that Relay For Life events around the world focus on is providing people with hope. Hope is why we Relay!

What is happening right here in Polk County this year? 15 teams are busy raising funds and cancer awareness. These are teams that represent businesses, churches, families, schools, and community organizations. Over 40,000 dollars have been raised.

What is going to happen Friday night? The teams will set up at Janssen Park. There will be plenty of food, and lots of other fun activities. The entire community is invited to come to the park and help celebrate. The evening kicks off with the Survivor Lap. Relay is a big celebration to celebrate our cancer survivors. We also honor Caregivers. To be the physical and emotional support for a cancer patient is a tough but very important job, and we honor those individuals. After these special laps around the park, the teams start walking with the goal of keeping at least one person from each team on the track at all times. Relay starts at 6:00 P.M. and continues until midnight.

Highlighting the evening is a Luminaria Ceremony of Hope held after dark to honor cancer survivors and to remember loved ones lost to cancer. The Luminaria candles line the track. If you have attended Relay, you know what an awesome sight that was. I hope to see you at Relay. Come by the Nidec Pirate Ship and say hi.

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