Relay For Life: survivors are what it is all aboutThere will be lots to celebrate at this year’s annual Relay For Life Survivors’ Dinner April 19 at Bethel Highlands. When cancer survivors and their caregivers get together, there always is.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
There will be lots to celebrate at this year’s annual Relay For Life Survivors’ Dinner April 19 at Bethel Highlands. When cancer survivors and their caregivers get together, there always is.
Last year’s event brought together a record number of local survivors and caregivers and this year they expect even more. Terri Wilcox was among them and she knows why they come.
“You would be amazed at how many of us there are. Some are just beginning their cancer journey and are in the middle of treatment. Others are over 20 years out from their diagnosis. It doesn’t matter where you are in that cancer journey…what binds us together is what we face today: that we are surviving and with the help of new discoveries, new medicines, and new methods to battle the disease, we will extend our survivorship and improve the rates,” said Wilcox.
Wilcox was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer four years ago this month. She says survivors have two kinds of anniversaries — when they first find out they have the disease and the doctor says there aren’t any signs of cancer or the treatment seems to be working. She says these aren’t the kind of anniversaries to celebrate but then again...
“These are very private anniversary dates…the ones you just can’t seem to forget, but you sure would like to. I just came through another milestone. My recent scans are showing no signs of cancer. Relief is the only emotion that bubbles up to the surface…so if that’s what people mean about celebrating ... then I guess I am celebrating.”
Wilcox says the dinner provides a unique opportunity for the survivors and their caregivers. Many who attend the dinner participate in the Relay For Life but with so much going on at the event, it doesn’t lend itself to connecting with on a personal level.
“Everyone who attends has a story, a different cancer experience, and their own personal perspective on life in general. This is our one chance each year to come together and focus on ourselves and our progress. With this dinner, we can focus on survivor relationships and make connections with others who might be able to help one another as we move on,” said Wilcox.
The dinner also focuses on caregivers, the people, whether family, friends, and even strangers, who rally round to be whatever help they can.
Wilcox believes caregivers can make or break a cancer survivor’s journey. She says that if it hadn’t been for her caregivers, she doesn’t think she would have made it through the very difficult days of treatment.
She says when the cancer hit, she lost all sense of control in her life and the more she fought to get it back, the weaker she became both physically and mentally.
“If it had not been for my husband, Steve, giving me his daily optimistic pep talks, making sure I had my meds at the right time, letting me take off work to sleep, protecting me from too much social interaction when he knew I didn’t have the energy, and simply being there next to me watching TV, putting his own life on hold, while I rested…that’s what kept me sane and it’s what kept me going.”
She said he was also fortunate to have others who slipped into the caregiver role including her children, friends, relatives and pastors. “They probably don’t even consider themselves caregivers, but their efforts did not go unnoticed and I am forever indebted to them for looking out for my welfare. When I find out someone new has just been diagnosed, I immediately go into caretaker mode. I believe that if it weren’t for caregivers, there would not be as many survivors.”
Wilcox said her brother is now battling the disease and she says all she can do it push people to continue to support cancer research.
Wilcox describes cancer as a devastating experience but says survivors represent the light at the end of the tunnel. “Survivors are our hope and this group is growing every day thanks to ACS and their efforts to research new cures as well as support cancer survivors as they battle through the cancer journey. Until we find a cure, we still have a lot of work to do.”
Wilcox says the Relay For Life Survivors Dinner is open to all cancer survivors and their caregivers or other guest. The evening will include a buffet dinner provided by A’viands Food and Services Management and entertainment by singer/songwriter and cancer survivor Joe Loftus. Door prizes will be awarded at the end of the program.
Everyone who attends is also being asked to bring their favorite healthy recipe which will be compiled into a “Cancer Survivors’ Recipe Book” for next year.
Registration and social time the evening of the dinner starts at 5:30 p.m. with the dinner beginning at 6 p.m. Bethel Highlands is located at 504 Frontage Road in Hudson.
Those wanting to attend must RSVP by sending an email to email@example.com or by calling (715) 386-3790 and leave your name, number attending, and an address for our mailing list so they can be invited next year.