Cancer is a word that tends to bring up emotions of sadness or images of loved ones that have passed away from or have fought the disease. What Relay for Life attempted to do this past weekend is change the imagery of cancer to one of hope.
Colleges Against Cancer and the American Cancer Society are donating the money raised during the event to services for cancer patients and cancer research in hopes that one day a cure will be found and that this disease will no longer have an affect on people’s lives.
"Thank you to the American Cancer Society for putting on this event and helping make the reality of a cure one step closer," said Amy Zondlo, a speaker at Relay for Life that spoke of her personal experiences with this disease.
"I no longer live life the way I used to. I am just appreciative for life itself," Zondlo said.
Zondlo was given a 40 percent chance of living after five years and told she had a grade B tumor that took up 6 cm in her left breast. After being diagnosed with Stage 3 Inflammatory Breast Cancer, a disease that makes up only 1-2 percent of all breast cancers, Zondlo adopted a new outlook on life.
"I accepted it as a challenge and I was left with no choice but to live with that challenge," Zondlo said.
She described her recipe for success as adopting the attitude she wanted to dictate the quality of her life. She gave up on the small stuff and focused on her humor and faith in God. After 54 weeks of chemo, five different drugs, two shoulder replacements, removal of her ovaries, radiation treatments, and 61 shots to boost her white blood cells, Zondlo is cancer free and has surpassed her five-year life sentence.
"My body may have been ravaged after the two years of intense care, but my spirit never wavered. That’s why these events are so important. We get to celebrate survivorship and honor the memories of those lost. Every person affected has their own story of wisdom, hope, courage and faith and it is events like these that recognize that," Zondlo said.
A way to recognize the struggle was to purchase and decorate luminaria that were then displayed and lit in a ceremony. As they were lit, participants walked around the track several times in a lap of silence to remember those lost.
"I really wanted to get involved this year because I know quite a few people that have been affected by cancer and there are a lot of the wonderful things that the American Cancer Society does for those suffering with this disease so I got involved with Colleges Against Cancer," said Kayla Schultz, a volunteer at the Relay for Life Event.
One of the services that the American Cancer Society helps fund around the Stevens Point area is the Hope Lodge in Marshfield. It allows patients that have treatment to go there and stay for free.
While remembrance was very much the theme of the evening, participants of the different teams competed for the team spirit, campsite decorating, residence hall and community fundraising champions by performing in different activities.
Bag Toss, Root Beer Pong, Sumo Suit races, wet t-shirt contests, and movie trivia were just a few. Theme laps were also a way to gain points for the respective teams by dressing up for an hour in the announced theme. Harry Potter, Disney, Pirates, and Grease were among the most popular dressed up hours.
As the participants slowly went to sleep, or kept walking, the feeling of accomplishment was in the air. Collectively, the Relay for Life made about $20,000.