By Mary O’KEEFE
The Foothills Relay for Life kick off was Saturday with a mini-luminaria walk up and down Honolulu Avenue.
Everyone, with one exception, was handed glow sticks for the walk. That exception was Mackenzie Drewe, a young cancer survivor. She was allowed to carry a candle and lead the walk.
“I don’t think about this a lot which is good because I don’t have leukemia anymore,” Mackenzie said.
In cancer remission, she told those gathered about how she and her parents discovered she had leukemia.
She had gone to birthday parties over the weekend. On the following Monday morning she work up with a horrible backache. It was so painful she couldn’t walk. Her parents took her to chiropractors that tried to help but soon her family realized her pain was more serious.
She was diagnosed with leukemia and began treatment that eventually would cause her to lose her hair but not her spirit.
“I am here today because of all the support from nurses, doctors, friends and family that were by my side the whole way,” Mackenzie said.
She is a member of Girl Scout Troop 943. The girls in the troop are lifelong friends. Mackenzie shared what those friendships meant during her treatment.
She recalled what her friends remembered of that time.
“Ally said I always held my head high and never said anything negative,” she said.
“Grace said I hated applesauce … I didn’t use to hate applesauce but when I had to take pills my parents would crush them up and make me take them in [applesauce],” she added.
Mackenzie’s troop is heading up the luminaria program for the Foothills Relay for Life as part of its Silver Award.
“We will be decorating bags and people will be writing names on them,” said scout Ally Pehar.
Foothills Relay for Life is a fundraiser that supports the American Cancer Society. People create teams that stay all night, walking for 24 hours, on the Clark Magnet High School field. The money raised by each team goes to support cancer research and programs for cancer patients and their families.
It is a relay, so at least one member of each team is on the track walking for the entire 24 hours. The message is that team members don’t stop because cancer hasn’t stopped.
This is the eleventh year for Foothills Relay for Life. It will be held on May 14-15. For information on the event or to donate visit the website http://foothillsrelayforlife.com or call (818) 248-8778, extension 223.