The annual event promises a time of fun, reflection and celebration.
By Mary O’KEEFE
This weekend hundreds of community members will begin a 24-hour walk that is meant to bring awareness, show solidarity and help support those with cancer, their caregivers and research.
Organizers have described Foothill’s Relay for Life as a unique event. Participants are not only there to raise money but also to show strong community support.
Adults and kids volunteer countless hours in preparation for the event. Committee members work on the event for months, planning every detail from the survivor booth to the luminarias.
“I love the committees and meeting all our people,” said Lori Carrico, chair of the event for the past two years. She was co-chair for two years prior to becoming the chair and, although it is a lot of work with many hours away from home and family, to Carrico the event is worth it.
The true reward of working on Foothill’s Relay for Life is the community response, especially those who are cancer survivors, she added.
“[Some survivors] think they are alone,” she said.
The event has a designated Survivor Lounge where those who have gone through treatment can sit and talk to others who have heard those words, “You have cancer,” from their doctor.
“They can talk to others who have gone through what they have gone through,” she said.
One of the survivors who will be sharing her story at the weekend event is Stacy Toyon.
Toyon was training for a marathon when she went to her doctor concerned about something she had found. Even then she had a feeling it was breast cancer, her doctor told her it was nothing and sent her home, but she knew something was wrong and followed her instinct. She went back.
“They did a mammogram, then an ultrasound,” she said.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was six years ago. In May she will be five years cancer- free.
She said her treatment was aggressive. She had a bilateral mastectomy, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“My doctor said it would be a tough battle but it was a winnable one,” Toyon said.
When asked if she believed her doctor she replied, “I did, almost from the beginning.”
Understandably, when she was first told there was that moment when she feared what would happen to her family, to her three kids and how she was going to tell her mother.
“I couldn’t believe I had to go and tell her I had cancer. I [thought], ‘I am going to kill my mother,’ but it had the opposite effect,” she said.
Instead, her mother became the fighter; she had something to focus on – supporting her daughter.
Toyon’s sister became her hero. Although she lived an hour away, she would travel to the hospital to be there for the chemotherapy treatments and for radiation.
Her family and extended family came out in force to support her and her family.
“The community surrounded our family,” Toyon said.
Friends and neighbors brought food to their home and supported her in so many ways.
“In the summer, they took [my] kids to the beach while [I] was lying home bald and sick,” Toyon said.
The community rallied around her and will again at the Foothills Relay for Life.
The funds raised go to cancer treatment, research and education programs sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Teams walk the field at Clark Magnet High School from Saturday 9 a.m. to Sunday 9 a.m. There are 20 teams participating with about 150 participants. The teams bring pop-up tents and are prepared to stay 24 hours. Throughout the day and evening, there is entertainment on the main stage and food that has been donated by local businesses.
Donations can be made to specific teams or to the Relay in general by going to foothillsrelayforlife.com. Donations can also be made at the event.