Paige Bowshire, Cancer Council Australia - Global Relay For Life Story Series

In the coming months we will bring different stories about how Relay For Life has affected and changed the lives of cancer patients. We are excited and very pleased to be able to start our article series with Paige Bowshire from Australia:

 

In April 2001, Paige’s family was given the devastating news that their petite, happy 8 year old daughter had leukemia. Being so young, Paige was unable to understand exactly what leukaemia was so it was a very scary and confusing time. Paige couldn’t understand why she was sick and wasn’t allowed to play with friends or go to school.

 

In 2010 (9 years after her initial diagnosis), Paige was then told she had Wilson’s disease, a rare and incurable genetic disorder. The only option to save Paige’s life was a liver transplant which she received in 2010 at the age of 16. Another 11 weeks in hospital receiving treatment, fighting the effects of the disease and recovering from major surgery. It has now been 14 years since Paige received her bone marrow transplant that gave her a second chance at life and 6 years since her liver transplant, giving her again yet another chance at life. 

 

Paige is a strong advocate for Cancer Council and publically shared her story for the first time in her home town of Port Augusta at their Relay For Life event in 2012.

Since then, Paige has travelled to multiple regional communities and now captain’s her own team, inspiring Relayers with her strength, resilience and determination. Paige has lived a life beyond her years and we are so proud of and grateful to Paige and the role she plays in our South Australian Relay family.

 

What influence has Relay For Life had on your life?

 

“Relay For life has influenced me majorly in that now I have the confidence in public speaking and being able to tell my story, going as far as 6 places across South Australia” says Paige and continues “It has influenced me to speak about cancer prevention more in my work place and encourage others to join in relay and the fight against cancer. Relay is a basically a part of my life now, no matter what it is I am always doing something for Relay For Life and I love everything about it”

 

Relay For Life is about a community taking up the fight, and many people make such wonderful friends through these unforgettable experiences. Have you made any friends through your work with Relay For Life?

 

“I have made lots of friends through Relay”, say Paige fast “Two close friends being staff of the Cancer Council SA, who have been massive supports in offering me o being a part of their own teams at Adelaide Central Relays over the past two years, nominating me and much more” Paige says. “I have also made friends within my local Relay for Life committee and act as a side/ extra help to them all”
 

Paige has extended her Relay network well beyond her event, as well. And she has made several friends and has shared Cancer Council Australia information to so many more!

 

What is your favorite part of your Relay For Life events?

 

“The candle light ceremony that we have here in SA at night time during the relay would mean the most to me because it gives everyone a chance to reflect on their love ones who are battling cancer or those who have lost their fight” Says Paige, and she is not alone on this part.  For candle light ceremony is very important for so many participant all over the world.

 

Relay also gives each of us an opportunity to speak and share their story about cancer to everyone else. Those stories are so inspiring and make us feel inspired about the work that we are doing – and how we’re going about doing it together.

Welcoming our 27th Global Relay For Life Partner

Last week, a team of volunteers and staff welcomed Switzerland as the 27th Global Relay For Life country! Lead by volunteers and staff from the Swiss Cancer League and the Bernese Cancer League, Switzerland's first Relay For Life event will be held in June of 2017 in Spiez, Switzerland.

Please join us in welcoming our newest Global Relay For Life partners!

 

Pictured here: A group of volunteers from the Bernese Cancer League along with Global Relay For Life leadership volunteers and staff from the US and Europe.

Pictured here: A group of volunteers from the Bernese Cancer League along with Global Relay For Life leadership volunteers and staff from the US and Europe.

Supporting European Relay For Life

Matt Lewis, Regional Director, Relay For Life - Europe

Relay For Life is about a community taking up the fight and, today, that community has expanded to include more than 25 countries around the world. To support that expansion, we’re excited to have Matt Lewis join the team to support European Relay For Life partners from his home in Dublin, Ireland.

With a degree in Sports, Science and Physiology, Matt worked for some years as a volunteer in several different countries. His great desire for volunteer work and educational background has led Matt from UK to countries such as Malta, Fiji, Australia and China, where he has worked as a manager and responsible for the implementation of volunteering.

In January 2012, Matt returned back to Ireland and started working as a Community Fundraiser at the Irish Cancer Society. In June 2014 he took up the post as Relay For Life Manager in Ireland.

From South Africa to Malaysia, we’ve seen the incredible things that Relay For Life can do for a country. “We want to support more countries to take up Relay For Life, and provide them with the support to thrive. My area has therefore become Europe and the Middle East" says Matt . We need many new volunteers and more training for staff and volunteers alike. In his role, Matt will develop and facilitate trainings and bridge relationships between countries in Europe and the Middle East.

There are many tasks ahead of the new director and it will be hard to prioritize them, but one of the largest and perhaps most difficult will be enough to find a global corporate partner that can and will go in and support the countries in Europe. " It is a great desire to find a company that can see an advantage in supporting Relay For Life, but also like to see a convergence between our values nd its own " says Matt Lewis.

If we look back 10 years, Relay For Life was not so well known in Europe, but this has changed a lot in recent years. Here there are many new countries but also many new Relay For Life events locally. “I think we within the next 5 years, will find at least one major global partner to help us achieve great progress in the countries which executes Relay For Life,” Matt says.

Belgium - First National Relay For Life Summit

Hello everyone!

My name is Domi and I’m very proud to be a Relay For Life volunteer from Belgium!

On February 13th, we had our first national Summit and this was a very special moment because we are celebrating our 5th anniversary of Relay For Life in Belgium! (Here it’s called Levensloop / Relais Pour La Vie)

This year we will have 28 Relay For Life events all over Belgium and the intention is to have 50 relays by 2020!

Upon arrival we were guided to the foyer where we could have a little breakfast (mini croissants with beverages). After a little while we were able to go to the room where the Summit was taking place. Every committee had their own table. At each table there was a bag with our name on it. In the bag there were different gadgets in it such as a pen, notebooks, personalized business cards, a chocolate bar (Belgium is THE country of chocolate after all) and, especially for our 5th anniversary, a very special sweater for each one of us! (when we had to subscribe for the Summit they asked us for our sizes so now we knew why)

 

When everyone got to their seats it was time to kick-off the Summit! After Sarah welcomed us all, they showed a presentation with all the video’s each committee made from their relay last year. After the video finished they asked everyone who was part of the 3 first Relays, back in 2011, to stand up so that everyone could see who’s been a part since the very beginning!

I’m honored to say that I was one of the few standing up!

  The first act of the day began with Fried Ringoot. (He’s a comedian, who’s been a survivor since 2005. He’s been touring our country with his own theater shows where he tells his own story.) 

 

After his act we got our first testimony of the day, from a survivor Inès. She told her story as well as her son’s as they are both survivors.

Then it was time for our first workshop of the day: “Bring the people”. This was all about how to attract people to join your committee and to have people join your relay as a team, fighter, volunteer or sponsor.

 

After this workshop we got an interview with 3 testimonials about the services that Stichting Tegen Kanker (Belgian Cancer Foundation) provides: 1 person who quit smoking through Tabacstop, 1 person who’s using Rekanto (a program that helps survivors after their treatment to get back in movement through different kinds of activities such as Nordic walking, Yoga, Aquagym) and lastly we got a testimonial from one of the people who’s working for the Cancer Info helpline.

 

After Lunch we got our 2nd workshop: “Build the fun”. Here we had to write down our own experiences from our own Relay last year, both the positive as well as the negative sides. 

All of a sudden it got dark after the 2nd workshop and a celebration song was playing when they brought in a huge birthday cake with fireworks on top!

 

While the caterer was preparing the cake for everyone to enjoy, all the survivors got on stage with a very special message to thank us for all the work we’ve done these past 5 years and how much going to these relays means for them.


Then it was finally time to go have a delicious piece of that cake in the foyer! (chocolate mousse)

After the break the final workshop of the day started “Fund the mission”. Here we learned about why exactly we are organizing these relays and how we can fund it. After this we got a testimonial from the medical director for the Foundation Against Cancer talking about the statistics of cancer and how the medical world has improved finding cures against cancer.


But we’re not quite there yet, not by a long shot! So we need to keep relaying so we can some day have a world that’s completely cancer-free!

One of the final parts of the day, before the dinner party started, was of course the luminary ceremony. Here we first got Christel, one of the survivors from one of the French committees who performed her song “New Life”. After her song we got another performance from Kim Poelmans and her niece followed by a girl who danced ballet while Coldplay’s “ A sky full of stars” was playing.

 

Then it was time for the General Director of Stichting tegen Kanker, Luc Van Haute, to get on stage to give his speech. When he finished and wanted to get off stage, he was quickly stopped by Pascal & Cindy (2 people who organized the Summit) with a surprise for him: they made stickers for each one of us that said: #IhuggedLucVanHaute so everyone who wanted was able to get on stage to give him a hug to thank him for being the founder of Relay for Life in Belgium and guiding a team of staff and volunteers in the development of Relay Belgium. Everyone who did got a sticker taped on their chest as a proof!

All of a sudden we heard percussion drums from the back of the room and 3 men from Drum Cafe came walking into the room with their djembe’s giving an amazing performance! Before we knew it all the people from the foundation were handing everyone a djembe for the session we were about to have! This lasted for a half hour where we learned to play the djembe and it was really amazing.

After the djembe session it was time for our dinner so while the caterer prepared the buffet and the tables, we went back to the foyer where we each got a glass of champagne to enjoy while waiting.

After dinner the party started with a Wobble session (that they taught us during the day saying that we ALL HAD to perform later that night) followed by a karaoke contest before a DJ played the rest of the night.

It was a really instructive day where we learned a lot from the different workshops and where we all had a lot of fun getting to know all of the other committees from Belgium, celebrating this special anniversary all together.

Lots of greetings from across the pond!

Domi Demunter
Relayer for Levensloop Belgium

 

 

Cancer doesn't take a year off! (Levensloop Kortrijk)

The feedback we received from the first Levensloop (Relay For Life) Kortrijk event back in October 2015 taught the entire committee that our participants had a great weekend and a great experience. The gratitude we received for organizing this made each one of us very proud!

It was worth it: even all the preparations! These consisted of the creation of a beautiful weekend for all of our cancer survivors – anyone who has ever heard the words “you have cancer,” bringing together as much solidarity (teams) as possible, and a beautiful program for catering, entertainment, and logistics!. Of course also attracting all the sponsors: getting everything fully sponsored makes those incoming fundraising-euro’s actually go to the fight against cancer!

Plans were quickly made for our 2nd event: after being the co-president last year I took over the presidency from Lieve Maes and we expanded the committee. From Kortrijk we could grant the national request from Stichting Tegen Kanker – supported by the major of Kortrijk – for the 2nd event! Stichting Tegen Kanker is the national organizer of Relay For Life and appeals to local committees but therefor asks for an annual returning event… because cancer doesn’t skip a year!

The actual start for the preparations of this 2nd event was only given after Brecht Gunst took over from the previous regional coordinator… somewhere in the 1st trimester! This meant that we had a shorter timeframe to get everything together because of the switch in the Stichting Tegen Kanker, the committee, and this made it feel more like it was our first event all over again! We were working hard and hoping this was going to come together on September 12th & 13th at the Campus De Lange Munte in Kortrijk.

It was with shaking knees that I got on stage together with Jurgen Catry, a little bit before 3 PM on that September 12th! Just seeing that enthusiastic ocean of people… so many happy faces… happy committee members… and after the touching opening song all that tension disappeared like snow before the sun.

It was fantastic to see all those 93 teams walking in that opening lap!

Soon we noticed that all the fighters (survivors) were perfectly received in the fighters lounge, the children’s entertainment was going well… the teams were satisfied with the logistics… and new for this year: the mission activities were a hit! Great work from the sub committees of the fighters, entertainment and catering, logistics, mission… and all of this thanks to the many volunteers, which the sub committees coordinated all on their own.

All the volunteers were once again great… two volunteers who were probably working the longest hours were our amazing hosts: Yves & Olivier (left).

The only thing left was the question whether the luminaria ceremony was going to be able to go on or not because the air in the sky wasn’t looking too good!

But yes, it stayed dry! Having a beautiful song at the opening ceremony by Steffie, we had our 2nd highlight from Anna Julia who brought the whole place in the right mood, which was absolutely necessary for the enduring text from Sam that followed.

 

The entire weekend there were great performances: thank you to all the groups who volunteered their time to perform for us!

On Sunday we had to run from one side of the field to the other side of the field: we were once again organizing a lot in 24 hours. While our participants had fun, there just wasn’t enough time for the organizers to get a taste of everything that was going on!

Luckily there was time for me to pass by my own cyclo4cancer team:

Around 3PM it was the moment of glory: the announcement of the fundraising amount! When we organize RFL for the fighters, to reach as much solidarity as possible, getting a beautiful check for the fight against cancer is the cherry on top!

And a beautiful cherry on top it was, one we couldn’t have hoped for: about 204,000 euros!

Also our 2 ambassadors of Levensloop Kortrijk saw it was great (below)!

It was clear that our participants and survivors appreciated the event, and we received many heartwarming messages during the event!

 

That evening I was able to have a relaxing dinner with my family, who not only experienced everything with me but also helped in the organization.

Of course the subject was our Relay For Life: looking back happily, but also carefully looking ahead. Not questioning if there’s going to be a third year for this event, because the engagement was there with Stichting Tegen Kanker… but who would take over the chairmanship in 2016, which committee members would help make the third event even better than the previous two years, and which role we would take upon ourselves.

But first there’s a lot of work left to be done to finish this year’s event: the logistics subcommittee coordinates the destruction/cleaning, the strong duo of the accountant committee is finalizing the numbers, we hand out the raffle prizes to the winners and together with Jurgen and Brecht I’m preparing the evaluation of this edition… which takes us back to the beginning of this blog update.

Levensloop Lommel

Hello Relayers,

Earlier this year, we, the organizing committee of Levensloop Lommel, received the 2014 Global Spirit of Relay Event Award, from the American Cancer Society, which of course we are very proud of. This recognition has motivated us even more to go on in 2015 as well. This year it was also a very successful event where we look back with a lot of pride. We got to welcome more fighters (survivors), more teams, more participants and more visitors. It was also very obvious how much youth was present at our latest edition. Almost all the schools and youth clubs from Lommel and surroundings participated. This means that the message of Relay For Life also reached them and we are very happy with that.

Relay For Life has become a “concept” in Lommel where people got the feeling “we have to be there” because we get the opportunity there to mean something in the fight against cancer. Through Relay For Life we finally get the feeling we are not helpless. We can finally let our friends, family members, colleagues,… who are fighters, know that “they are not alone”.

In Lommel and surroundings the feeling lives that we can make a difference through Relay For Life!

Of course fundraising at our event is an important goal, but we think it’s more important to find the right atmosphere and the right feeling within the people.

The three ceremonies each have their own meaning, but the luminaria ceremony is the highlight to make sure we have the right atmosphere and the right feeling. We are very happy we got to welcome so many visitors at this ceremony. People specifically came to experience that intense feeling of solidarity together with our fighters. The silent lap is also a very modest moment for a lot of people where a mix of emotions arise: sadness for the people who lost the fight, but also the feeling of “we have to keep going because we can win this fight”.

This Relay weekend is one of the highlights of the year for our fighters.
The support they can find with fellow sufferers means incredibly lot for them.
Out of solidarity they can draw a lot of courage to continue their difficult fight.

As a closure, can I please thank all the people, anywhere in the world, for every contribution they give to Relay For Life. Together we can truly make a difference!

 

Rudi Colson

Chairman Levenloop Lommel Belgium.

Even a small country can make a big difference

Across every category, 2015 was the biggest and best year for Relay in Denmark. We have never had as much support as we did this year. The entire 55,698 participated in the Relay For Life. It is 1% of the entire Danish population. All these people helped us raise 40.5% more than in 2014!

 

We have the world's largest outdoor Relay with more than 7,500 participants, but also a city with 600 inhabitants, but their Relay participated this year three times as many.

 

But we do not stop here. We have set some goals. In 2020 we will be 100,000 participants in 100 Relay events. In 2015 was held 48 Relay events in Denmark, and we are planning 10 to 12 new events every year, so we are well on track. We are now seeing that communities even contacts The Danish Cancer Society in order to start a Relay in their city.

 

We are a small country where many families and friends have heard the words “you have cancer.” After 10 years of Relay For Life, many Danes now have been touched by the unforgettable experience, and they have taken it to heart. We spend 24 hours to celebrate life, to make a difference in a strong community, where we show we are united in a common fight against cancer. Where friendships are made and strong bonds are made tronger through hope.

 

We also believe that all who have heard the words " you have cancer " must have the opportunity to participate in a Relay in their town. We have many Relay events, some even just a few kilometers away from one another, but each city has many participants. That means it's entire cities which stand together during the entire 24 hours.

 

But why do we see so much support here in Denmark ?

 

It's basically about raising money for cancer treatment, but we mention it almost never. Instead, we use the time together to talk much more about showing support for cancer patients and entire communities that are affected by cancer. They should never get the feeling to stand alone, and Relay For Life is our opportunity to show them that we stand with them. One of our values s compassion. But this means that cancer has no boundaries in terms of religion, color, nationality. It affects everyone and everyone is welcome at any Relay For Life event. A cancer patient must never be left alone and we do everything we can to make sure they understand that.

 

In Denmark, our Relay events embody humanity, respect and commitment to such a degree that once someone has participated in Relay For Life, they want to kepe coming back. More than 90 % of those who participated returns, and no Relay For Life events have been stopped in the past 7 years. This gives us an indication that we are doing the right thing, and we continue to innovate and grow each year!

 

All are welcome to visit a Relay in Denmark and you will understand why we have so much support in our small country!

 

Experiencing Relay in a Different Country

Henrik Michaelsen from Denmark had a chance to experience Relay For Life in Ireland earlier this year. Hear from him how some of the same Relay For Life traditions unite us in our global fight against cancer.

We are so different - just not when it comes to cancer

Sitting in the plane after a long weekend with Relay For Life in Ireland in a city - Kilkenny - with about 25,000 inhabitants. My meeting with Ireland, however, already started Friday when I met Matt Lewis from the Irish Cancer Society, at their headquarters. Here I was introduced to the entire department where they work with the development of their Relay For Life.

 

Saturday morning we set out on a long drive to get to Kilkenny, where the Relay was held. I was by nature very curious as to how they wound their . On the other hand , I knew good the concept, but anyway , the first variation came from the start.


It later turned out that there were quite a few variations throughout the weekend.


The survivors always starts first, just as in Denmark. Followed by relatives after also being applauded around the track . When this round is finished, the track is given free for all. Personally I found this particular track very touching I came to think back to the time my father was hospitalized with leukemia.We caregivers are exposed to an incredible pressure during our family member's illness. The idea of making this round for the relatives , I can therefore highly recommend that we take for us. The survivors are struggling every day, but we as relatives fighting an almost as big fight . Without all of you who today are relatives , would the fighters stand alone and their struggle would be unreasonable much larger.


From the start, they sold many luminaria and had also sold many before the weekend . They ended up with just over 2,000 sold in total, as they sat all the way around the track. An absolutely fantastic sight as darkness fell. The Candle of Hope ceremony was virtually the same as in Denmark, with the luminaria, singing, talking, recalling them as no more and give hope to those who struggle . At one point it was still just so much more different. The sample for the first time here in the city Kilkenny a new ceremony , which they called "the empty table"


All things which are on the table , has its own symbolism. The table is small , symbolising the frailty of a single patient. The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the medical profession , doctors, nurses and researchers who helped fight the battle for life.The single rose in the vase, signifies the enduring love of  families and friends and the strength of the patients’ will to fight the disease.The pink ribbon on the vase represents the ribbons worn on the lapels of millions, who support a continued search for a cure, not only for breast cancer but for all cancers. A slice of lemon on the plate ,  reminds us of the bitter battle against cancer, It reminds us of the difficulties those fighting cancer have to endure. More people are surviving cancer and living well following treatment. The salt sprinkled on the plate , reminds us of the countless tears of personal anguish shed by the patient and those shed by family members and friends who have lost a loved one.The glass is inverted in memory of those people who are not here to join our celebration of successes in finding a cure. But, the candle represents the light of HOPE that lives in the hearts of all of us.


To conclude the ceremony , took a suvivor the torch and carried it in front of all the participants one track.To walk among 800 people without a word was said while looking at the 2000 lighting backs was really a beautiful experience. All went to their own thoughts, some craid, others put his arm around the person who walked alongside. A single family stopped for a moment by a the lighting back to commemorate the person certain image they had put in the bag


We all have our ways of seeing things differently in our own society. I have participated in the Relay For Life in Denmark , Belgium and now Ireland. Three countries with very different societies. In one area, we are quite similar. When we ourselves are affected by cancer, or one of our relatives are affected. No matter what part of the world we come from, we all need hope, unity and support from our relatives.


Let us continue the struggle for a cure against cancer


My Journey with Relay - Guest Blog Post from Belgium

My story with cancer began somewhere in 2006 with a personal connection that I had. Tinneke was in our group. I didn’t know what she was experiencing, other than that she had a lot of head aches, major head aches. She was a fellow student, just like me.

I got to know her more after a few more classes. We were tree-buddies because we hugged a tree and shared our experiences with each other but also with the rest of the group.

Suddenly in 2008 I got an email saying she had something strange going on on May 7th and that she went to her doctor and got transferred. And that began her long journey. The letters and courage she had to fight it, the inner strength for life she demonstrated on a daily basis sent us a message. She had 5 rounds of chemotherapy for her cervical cancer, which eventually spread to her lungs. But she didn’t give up! She stood there in her own strength and determination. July 10th, 2009 was our last contact trough email. An email that took the ground right under my feet.

This was her inner strength.

I want to go for it! I want to fight for it and I hope you’ll do the same together with me!!!
I want to try and enjoy every day I get, because each day is a gift, a precious gift. First I really want to do my best to fysically strengthen and get back on my feet because I’ll need that strenght to keep holding on. I know I need to be realistic and keep in mind that it can end badly. But even then I still have time to take care of all the things I need to do. But for now on I mainly want to focus on the strenght that’s still here, for as long as it’s here and I keep feeling it, there’s hope.
SO: POSITIVE THOUGHTS, WE WILL NOT GIVE UP, WE KEEP ON BELIEVING THAT EVERYTHING WILL GO THE WAY IT’S SUPPOSED TO GO, and that’s how it’s gonna be, believe me!!! 
If I’m up for it, I’ll check my emails as often as I can when I get home, now that I don’t have fevers anymore. But at home I have oxygen, I also sleep with the oxygen because it helps me to breath, talk,… but they don’t get me down that easily! There’s so much strenght left, and I know a lot of people have faith in me, together we’ll go for it!
Hugs,
Tinneke

These were her last words that I got to read from her. Months of waiting and searching… no answer…Until I heard from someone else from the course, saying she passed away sometime July 2009. Her words were graved into my heart.

In April 2007, another good friend of mine came to visit me. She was hospitalised for a kidney infection. With following results from the examinations:

"Dion", she said, "please sit down."

“Yes Riet, I will sit down”, I said.

I’ll never forget her words.

“I HAVE 3 MONTHS LEFT”

I didn’t know what I heard, Riet & Willy were great neighbours and friends of mine. I was always welcome at their place… but in April 2007 she told me this.

After catching my breath for a while, I asked her for more explanation.
"Yes, I have skin cancer (she tested her blood every month at the hospital). Skin cancer in the final stages. The only thing my specialist said that I could do was sign papers for euthanasia and that I could go."

This was too much! I was still dealing with the loss of my own father. I had to learn to deal with it, with all the confrontations that went along with it…

The cards I still draw these days were on Riet’s request and I will always keep making them for her.

I kept visiting her and we had long talks. Her motto was: don’t give up, own the strength to fight and move on!

Unfortunately, Riet passed away September 28th, 2007.

This was too much for me. 2 losses in 1 year.

Years went on…

Suddenly I got a request.

Dion, would you be up for it to make something for our Relay For Life?

I never heard of it so I didn’t know what it was. This was in 2013.

And that’s how my story began where I got involved with Relay For Life.

A torch of hope, in Sint-Truiden! Yes, a torch honoring Tinneke & Riet for myself, but during the making of it, I soon realised they weren’t the only ones. No, there were so many of them, it astounded me! And that’s how I shared into volunteering for RFL. I’m still in contact with some of the fighters and other volunteers.

That Saturday, I stood there, realizing the purpose of a luminaria bag. I finally was able to give it all a place. The torch of Hope & Life.

But it didn’t end there. It’s an experience that really touched me, made me aware of what it does to a whole community.

 

It went deep… and when I finished building that torch on Friday, I took my flute out of my bag and played on it. It stuck, it got a purpose and deep inside me that purpose became a calling. A voice inside of me made me realize, Dion, what if you can do this at a luminaria ceremony, in absolute silence… that would be great! Not just for me but for all those who are dealing with something, anything….

For all those, sharing something in energy, strength, not giving up the power, to be connected.

Sunday they announced that every fighter could write a message on my sculpture. This was my main purpose. It wasn’t only my sculpture, but also so many others.

Suddenly a woman with 3 children came up to me, crying, asking me if she could write something down on the torch; this touched me deeply, made me even cry. Also seeing a little boy comforting his mother, touched me deeply. This doesn’t escape you, not as an artist or a photographer.

2014 came and the request for me to make something and do something at the luminaria ceremony came as a gift. This was very important to me. Because time doesn’t stand still and neither does life. When I went to Saffraanberg in October 2014 in Sint-Truiden and saw all those people who were participating and seeing all those fighters (survivors), I realized the impact of all of this. And I was the one who got to play on my flute. An experience I wasn’t going to let me pass by. An experience that made me realize what Tinneke & Riet also did, not giving up and keep standing up with your own strength. And that’s how I shared the energy trough my flute.

Relay For Life came into my life and it’s still here. I got to know people who really touched my heart, got to know people around me with pure energy inside of them. People who have characters you need to deal with but who also have a purpose in their lives. People who are fighters.

You can feel the energy, and that’s when we got to Hasselt in 2015. On Friday I went to have a look and I saw half a circle with empty chairs at the stage. A lot yes, and this made me really realize how many people are involved in this and will be there as a fighter. It gave me goosebumps.

As a volunteer, I became aware of all the things you can give to people

This is my road at this moment for Relay For Life. One that goes further step by step each day.

Dion

Levensloop Hasselt

May 22-23rd we were able to organize our first edition of Relay For Life in Hasselt. We had a fantastic success with 206 fighters, 2189 participants and we raised a total amount of 122.543 euros. This is a great foundation for next year!

It was an uplifting weekend filled with lots of emotions and coziness where the fighters were the center of everything. The big tent for the fighters was an oasis of rest where the fighters hung out for hours. A lot of them thanked us because they were able to rest and relax!

Also the many treats were a great hit!

What was obvious was the respect many participants had towards all the fighters! It was very quiet during the luminary ceremony, which left a non-erasable impression!

Underneath a bright, shining sun the people were able to enjoy lots of performances and demonstrations, lots of ambiance assured!

We’re already looking forward to our next edition next year with more teams and more fighters to spoil!

-Monica Bloemen, chairwoman of Levensloop Hasselt

 

If you can’t fly, run

If you can’t run, walk

If you can’t walk, crawl

But never stand still

Never go down, always rise

If you can’t laugh, smile

If you can’t smile, be happy anyway

If you can’t be happy, be content

But never give up hope

Always keep going on

Interview with the Program and Project Manager for Relay For Life in Denmark

When Gordy Klatt back in 1985 ran the first track, for the benefit of cancer, he had probably not thought of that until today in 2015, had this slightly crazy idea , collecting more than $ 5 billion worldwide.

 

In 2006, it became also part of the Danish Cancer Society fundraising and patient support, and there has since been held Relay For Life 162 times. A total of 7,000 fighters participated, about 88,000 team members have held the relay ongoing, and collected approximately 30 million Danish kroner (4 millions €) during the year.

 

I'm sitting here with Finn Christensen (Program manager) and Pernille Hauge (Project manager) who have been there from the Relay For Life's first year in Denmark.


Can you tell why you chose to take Relay For Life to Denmark?

Relay For Life could offer something new to the Danish Cancer Society because it was community based and because it was activity-based. You could do something concrete together within your network in the fight against cancer. It is both a way to fight cancer and to raise funds on which we had not seen before.

What was it that made such an impression on you at Relay For Life ?

It was the diversity, both in participants with both young and old, sick and athletes etc. Involved, but also the diversity of impressions. There are both laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, triumph, hope, challenge, reflection, contemplation, presence and space to miss


What challenges did you have with the start of the first Relay For Life?

The Society has local branches in all municipalities in Denmark, and in the beginning we thought that it was obvious that the people in these local associations was responsible for organizing Relay For Life. This was a big problem, because it was probably not what local associations saw as their task. Therefore, we changed strategy and decided to start up new volunteer groups, which made the relay planets. After this change in strategy, the number of local Relays has grown significantly each year.

 

What do you think is the reason that we in Denmark have seen as strong growth of Relay For Life events?
After spending a few years to build up some experience with how the Relay For Life is a success in Denmark, we have now found a good strategy and have useful experience to build on. We have been confirmed in the Relay For Life is a unique experience for Fight and attendees, and our assessments show that 93% of those who participated would like to participate again the following year. They spread the word about Relay For Life in their networks, and it is what makes us feel that people now contact us to get a Relay event in their communities.

Many people talk about 2020 plans. How does your 2020 plan look like for Relay For Life in Denmark?

2020 targets for Relay For Life in Denmark is that we have 100 relays and 100,000 involved. It is an ambitious but realistic goals that we believe that we can reach


The newest member of the Relay For Life family is Turkey. What advice can you give on?

Our best advice is to experience the Relay is the most important, It is about creating life-changing experiences for participants fighters and volunteers. You made rather make a small, but good relay where everyone has had a good experience, than a big event without soul. When you have a good experience, it is easier to grow. This is important to each city, but also the country's development as such.

This is where our passion comes from.

Many have heard our story but for those of you that haven’t, here is why we relay, why we are so passionate in funding the cure.  Ruth and I are both survivors.  We have lost our parents, and best friends to this disease. But…

What got us started with Relay For Life is our son David. We were living a charmed life in Houston, TX.  Life was great, we had two sons that were all a parent could hope for, they were no angels but they were great kids, football players, honor roll students, and popular with their classmates.  At the age of 20, David had been home from Oklahoma State for a year recovering from mono.  On April 1, 1999 he developed pneumonia and we took him to the emergency room.  The doctor checked him out, gave us a prescription for his coughing and sent us home as we had an appointment with the family doctor the next day.  The next morning, the emergency room doctor called and asked us to return as they found something abnormal in his blood.  By noon David was diagnosed with leukemia and on chemo by midnight.  He went into remission and we went home.  We transferred his care to MD Anderson Cancer Center.  David sailed through his following consolidation treatments and was back at Oklahoma State that spring.  He had worked so hard to get there and totally enjoyed being back.  In fact he met the love of his life, Becky, that semester.

That summer as he was preparing to return for the fall semester he had his check up with the doctors and they found he had relapsed so instead of returning to school he prepared for a bone marrow transplant.  David was lucky and had around 50 people that matched him perfectly.  November comes and the transplant happens, he engrafts quickly and his stay close to the medical center is actually cut short as he recovers ahead of schedule. 

August is on its way and David is once again preparing to return to college but he begins to suffer headaches.  He has once again relapsed, those little devil leukemia cells hid in his central nervous system.  On a side note, he was taking college algebra when he was diagnosed and each time he relapsed. His theory is… college algebra causes cancer!  Once again we are preparing for a bone marrow transplant but we just can’t keep him in remission and we run out of chemotherapy drugs so on December 20, 2001, David’s final wish was granted and in an informal ceremony he married his love, Becky, in his ICU room with his younger brother Scott standing in for him and we say our good byes to him, the following day, 1000 days after he began his fight.

This is what keeps us passionate about doing our part in helping to find a cure.  We will donate, ask for donations, raise awareness and routinely pester people we see doing things that raise their chance of contracting this devil of a disease.  We will walk till we can no longer walk or until we find a cure. We will walk so no more brothers like Scott lose their older brother and women like Becky don’t lose their husbands.

-Ruth & Lee Killman

Check out the amazing work that Lee and Ruth have been doing in their community on the Relay For Life of Yellowstone Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rflyellowstonecounty/timeline

Speedway Community Champions Hope

Matt Ochs, American Cancer Society Relay For Life volunteer from Indiana, shares the story of his communities success with Relay For Life. Read below and watch the video to learn more!

If you had asked me 7 years ago what Relay For Life was, I would have told you that it was something that my mom walked in for my dad.  Some type of 24 hour walk against Cancer.  My Father had Prostate cancer and I wasn’t really too concerned.  His prognosis was good, he seemed healthy, and it was treatable.  In April of 2009 my mother told our family that she had Lung Cancer.  On July 14th, 2009 she passed away due to complications of her surgery to remove the growth.  That November, my brother Mark informed us that he had Liposarcoma.   It was then that my family decided to form a team (Carol’s Casserole Crew) in memory of our mom, and to fight back for our father and brother.  Our family run team (with the help of so many friends and family members) has raised over $125K in 6 years.    Over the course of those six years, I have seen the devastation of Cancer and I no longer Relay for my family.  I Relay for all those people that don’t have anyone fighting for them.   I Relay for the quiet sufferers who don’t know that there are 100’s of thousands of people out there supporting them.   I Relay for Hope. 

 

I think the biggest factors that make the Speedway Relay so special is our Community Involvement, the Venue we have it at, and most importantly, the Event Leadership Team we have.    Speedway is a very small community (14K +- people) and our Relay wouldn’t be possible without the help of our Chamber of Commerce, Our Schools, our Town Government, and our Police & Fire Departments.  Our Chamber uses their connections within the local community to allow us to use a huge portable Stage from a local business.   Our Schools are getting more and more involved and that just drives the excitement level up through out the year as schools compete against each other. To see every school represented at the event is just a great feeling.   Our Town allows us to use the entire park for free and gives us every opportunity to promote the event on our local TV Channel, as well as come to the Town Meetings and promote it.   They SUPPORT us 110%.   Our Police and Fire Department are always there on the day of Relay walking the track, filling up the Dunk Tanks, or putting people in “jail”.     It just feels like the ENTIRE community is behind it.   And our venue is a Park where there are playgrounds in the center for the kids, as well as baseball diamonds.  There is nothing better than to have a baseball game going on and a family coming over afterwards to see what’s all the excitement about.  BUT, as I said before, our event doesn’t exist without the hard work and dedication of our ELT.   A majority of the committee have been involved for 6 plus years.  They are strong minded, dedicated, passionate people who put their hearts and souls into making sure that this event is representative of what a “Relay” should be ….. Community Engaged, Great Venue, Teams Engaged, High Energy, Something for Everyone, Lots of activity, an event where someone walking by wants to come over and see what’s happening,  and most importantly, something that people want to come back to once they’ve experienced it.  

 

What made this year’s Relay so special.  That’s a tricky question, because everyone has a different moment.   For me, it will be the moment that an older lady came up to our Registration Table and asked “What is this?” and I explained to her the concept of Relay and why we do what we do, and she broke down and cried and said that her husband had passed away just recently due to lung cancer.   I led her down to a team that were selling luminaries and she proceeded to have one made for him.   That night as we had finished up reading all the names for luminaries and started taking our Silent Lap, I spotted her on the track.  She and I walked arm in arm quietly reminiscing about her husband and crying along the way.   She was truly moved by the event and it made me realize how important this event is – not only as a means to fight cancer, but as a way in which we can truly help those hurting heal and move forward. 

Part III - Lindsey De Grande - Trying to Beat Cancer

FIRST YEAR OF TREATMENT-
FIRST GENERATION ORAL CANCER MEDICATION

In this update, I will tell you a bit more about my historic in-treatment, more specific, the first generation of drugs for CML patients, which I would take for about 16 months before switching to the second generation because of the side effects and too slowly decline of the cancer. I said it earlier: When I got diagnosed 4 years ago, my world collapsed. But the doctors said, 'if you respond well on the drug and the side effects are good, you may expect a good life quality and quantity. As optimistic as I am, (luckily I grew up that way thanks to my parents), I was very certain that everything would be just fine. What else would you expect, if even the doctor said so!

I remember how I was looking at my first pill, the first day of my treatment. Although I was training for the World championships, I immediately said, okay, let's start with the treatment now, because that way, I'm winning 6 weeks in the preparation for the Olympic Games next year. Those 6 weeks were the difference between finishing my track season at that point, or doing a few more races in the summer. The doctor who diagnosed me said that wouldn’t be a problem, because I got diagnosed in a very early stage, by ‘coincidence’. 

Nevertheless, for several months I was so tired, got more sick, and my physical activity became harder and harder. My specialist who was tracking my treatment said that waiting 6 weeks wasn’t an option. Luckily I had already decided not to wait. The timing worked out well and it was lucky that I wasn’t in China or Daegu for the Championships at that point. Looking backwards, those 6 weeks ‘winning with my treatment’ wouldn't made a different at all, even years would be to short to get me ready for running at professional level again. Maybe even all the years that will ever exist. At least, as long as the treatment persists. And it hurts. Maybe even more because in the beginning, it looked all just possible. There weren’t problems at all. The doctors said it could, so why shouldn't it? Don't get me wrong, I know running isn't everything. There is so much more in life. So many beautiful things. If you would tell me know, Lindsey, You will be cured, or even, you won't be cured, but you will feel just fine but you have to stop running. I would say, Okay, If that's necessary, where can I sign, although it is my passion, although it's the most pleasant thing I do. Not just running, but pushing myself hard and enjoying it. But nevertheless, It would hurt.

 

Relay For Life of Lommel - Global Spirit of Relay For Life - Event Award Winner

Relay For Life Lommel, the warmest weekend in Lommel!

 

 Figure 1: Relay For Life Lommel at night. ©Monique Bogaerts

Like most citizens of Lommel, I’m very proud of my hometown. What makes this rather small Belgian city so special? Lommel is the warmest place in Flanders; the temperature here usually is a little bit higher than the rest of Flanders. But, during the third weekend of September the temperature in Lommel rises even more! That weekend the citizens of Lommel and surrounding villages unite together for their Relay For Life event. Families, friends , co-workers… together arm and arm for the same goal: beating cancer!

 

As a member of the committee that plans the Relay For Life Lommel, I have the privilege to work with extremely driven and qualified co-members. Our committee is one warm group, consisting of people with different backgrounds each having their own story. Every member of our committee is responsible for a position which best matches their qualifications, skills, and passion, which forms the foundation of our committee.

Figure 2: From left to right --> (A) Sunscreen corner at Relay For Life Lommel, (B) Sun prevention kit for schools, from the Belgium Foundation Against Cancer, (C) Setup of the UV-scanner at Relay For Life Lommel. ©Ruben Vanderhoydonk

Figure 2: From left to right --> (A) Sunscreen corner at Relay For Life Lommel, (B) Sun prevention kit for schools, from the Belgium Foundation Against Cancer,
(C) Setup of the UV-scanner at Relay For Life Lommel. ©Ruben Vanderhoydonk

The Relay For Life Lommel has a strong history and has seen great success in the past! On our counter, 4203 participants spread over 102 teams had collected a total amount of 164 791 Euro. During our Relay For Life event our Survivors are our V.I.P. guests, so it was a real honor that we could welcome 136 Survivors to our event. In Lommel we believe that a world without cancer starts with cancer prevention. That is why we pay a lot of attention to our mission activities. Last edition, we made it our mission to inform our participants about the dangers of sun exposure. By means of a UV-scanner, a trained team of doctors showed our participants the sun damage of their skin. Today, we are very happy to see that our mission activities have inspired other Relays in Belgium.   

In 2014 our Relay For life event did not pass by unnoticed! Besides the price for ‘Lommel’s citizen of the year’ (Translation of Lommelaar van het jaar), we got selected by the American Cancer Society for the Global Spirit of Relay Event Award! We are more than honored to be selected for this title, it means a great acknowledgment of our work! Nevertheless, we could not have done this without the help of our sponsors and volunteers! Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who made Relay For Life Lommel a success! In the meantime we are doing our best to make next Relay For Life Lommel another big hit!

Hope to see you all on 19-20 September 2015, during the warmest weekend in Lommel!

Best wishes,

Anke Van Summeren


Like us on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Levensloop-Lommel/346675305434617?fref=ts

Follow us on Pinterest: https://nl.pinterest.com/relaylommel/

Lindsey De Grande - Trying to Beat Cancer - Part 2

This is Part 2 in a series. Missed Part 1 of Lindsey's story? Click here to read it.

Treatment & my life today

It has been 4 years since I was diagnosed, and a lot has happened. I haven't reached complete molecular remission (yet) and I'm currently taking my third type of medication. The side effects are really disrupting my life and, although I'm trying as hard as I can to keep reaching my dreams and goals, the treatment makes it very hard. If I would believe in the word, which I don't, I would even say that some of my goals have become "impossible."

At every check-up in Leuven, the doctors are looking at my cancer, while I'm  looking more and more for solutions...to feel better again. I'm put on other types of medication, increased doses, really anything to help improve the way that I feel. I need the hope that this won't be 'forever,' that my life won't always revolve around doctors, medication, side effects, tiredness, headaches, and a big lack of energy. I'm too young to sit in a chair, "happy to be alive," but not much more than that. I am at the age where I should be my strongest. Where I should do all those crazy things, or just know that I could do them if I really wanted to. Not waking up and "deleting" the 9 out of 10 "normal" things that were on my to do list because of how I feel.

Don't get me wrong...I have a lot to be thankful for. But what I get the opportunity to live, when cancer gets to a chronic stage or chronic disease, I really want to live, not just survive. And because I believe we can find a cure, I will keep looking for it until I have found it. I keep believing in a world without cancer!

Check back on Wednesday for Part 3 of Lindsey's story!

Guest Blog Post – Author: Fried Ringoot | Belgium

Greetings readers! And? Everything alright?

So nice to enter your mind and heart uninvited J When they asked me to write something down, I started to think, about what I would write and how to do it. After a while I decided to stop thinking and just let my heart speak. I do that often… actually all the time. And without any sacrifice J

A lot of people ask us (my dear Anny & I) in God’s name we’re still standing. After all we’ve been through, we used to think about how we’re still together. Now it’s not necessary anymore, we already know the answer a long time now: to love and to be loved. In all its aspects. To love life, to love each other, to love the world around us. And you know what, it’s not even that hard J It’s just like laughing… it goes automatically and it makes you happy. And that’s why I decided a long time ago to smile as much as I can every single day!

In 2005, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Me? Cancer? People around me, yes…but not me? Yes, me too. In my head, I can still hear the oncologist say: “I have the impression you both love each other a lot”. “Yes” we both answered. Not knowing what that had to do with cancer cells or chemo. “Good,” she said, “because you’ll need it the most”. At that time it seemed a weird thing to say. In retrospect, we know better and we still believe that it was love and optimism that has kept us still standing till this day.


But everything that could go wrong, went wrong: new tumor found, another surgery, vocal chords burned from chemo (go figure! My independent job as an animator/host was gone), house burned down, already 5 years having osteporosis, having a body like someone who’s 80 years old (but luckily in my mind I’m still a 16 year old J) and since then I’m in a wheelchair because, slowly but surely, I’m becoming paralyzed below the diaphragm… phew, you still with us? OK…

And look! Even after all these knockdowns, I’m still managing to play my show “En..? Alles Goed?”  for these past 3 years. Yes, in a wheelchair, but hey, so what? I’m doing what I’ve been dreaming since I was a kid… Cancer might have harmed my body, but it can never take away my dreams. Admit it, nothing can make you happier than that?! I’m pretty sure that Anny & I are one of the happiest people of Flanders. I truly mean that.

At the end of every show I often say “hug each other more often, love one another!”
Only when there’s a flu going around we can do without
J but I love hugging as much as I can. And then there are so many people afterwards who want to hug me and then I’m feeling from my head to my toes how much people are needing this… so why not hug more often?!

A lot of people come to ‘consume’… to get some energy. And if I wonder where that comes from I’m thinking it’s because we see life positively. And why not? For instance, Anny and I never fight anymore. For years. What’s the point anyway? You have to make up in the end.

One of our life mottos is “you (almost) always get back what you give” If you’re a blaming sourpuss, then that’s what you’ll get back. The other way around is the truth too… if you show your heart and see the good in others, you’ll get that back and you discover beautiful emotions every day.

During my show there’s a lot of laughing. I call it the ‘Sitting, stand-up rollercoaster’. Because it is a rollercoaster of emotions… laughing, lots of laughing, but personal and touching that you’ll shed a tear. I love the many letters (often handwritten) that I’m getting afterwards…it’s exactly why I love doing my theatershows.

I also play my shows for schools (15-19 year olds) and the so-called ‘grown-ups’ tell me then and there that I shouldn’t bother the youngsters with it. What rubbish. As if they don’t have to deal with emotions. Some less pleasant emotions can turn into something positive… that’s something for all ages, isn’t it?!

Despite all the misery (I’m a patient and am in pain 24/7), how do we keep standing?

Anny and I always make sure we have something to look forward to. How small that may be. And if there aren’t any small things to look forward to? Then we create it ourselves. A visit, a trip to take our grandkids to the beach, Plopsaland (yes, even for the 25th time this year, love it! J)…you name it. If you look closely there’s always something to look forward to. We don’t look backwards, unless it’s to realize how ‘lucky’ we are. And I truly mean that.

So, dear all, I wish you all ‘something to look forward to’!

I wish you a lot of ‘giving’ to get a lot back.

A heart full of emotions.

I hope that you don’t find too many setbacks on your path. And, if there are any, I wish you a lot of strength and energy to be able to handle them. I invite you all to come see my show in Belgium sooner or later. To ‘experience’ is the right word. And promise me to stay afterwards to tell me what you’re looking forward to at that moment!

Love one another!

‘Heartly’ hugs

Fried

To learn more, please visit: http://friedtheater.be/


All photos were accessed from http://friedtheater.be/.