After 20 years and thousands of miles walked, Santa Clarita’s Relay for Life continues on against one of deadliest diseases in America, cancer.
Over 100 teams, including 22 legacy teams, set up camp in Central Park to create a quarter-mile track that participants will walk in order to raise money over 24 hours for the American Cancer Foundation.
This year, the relay’s goal is $400,000, which will be used to fight all types of cancer through cancer research, patient care services, education and prevention initiatives, according to the ACF’s website.
“We’re here for the next 24 hours, having a good ol’ time and just raising money,” said Jen Maynard, one of the tri-leads who help organize the event every year, “That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. (New participants) don’t even realize that they are helping us defeat cancer by being so happy and positive and having a good time.”
The relay started at 9 a.m. with their opening ceremony and lap for cancer survivors before teams start their 24 hour journey around the track. Many of the teams represented local businesses and offered prizes and gifts for those who donate to the cause.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death to americans, just behind heart disease, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s estimated that 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2018, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“Everyone is affected by cancer, either personally or by knowing someone who has it,” said Barbara Myler, a 10-year survivor of breast cancer. “I’m still so thankful for all the prayers and support I get because I still fight it everyday. We all do and we all need to pray for each other and for the challenges we all have.”
Walking amongst the teams were individuals wearing purple Relay for Life shirts, that marked them as a survivor of cancer. A place for them to meet each other and share their stories and struggle or triumph.
“It’s a little strange coming to Relay because we’re congrulated for surviving,” Myler explained. “Its emotional for all of us. What was interesting is when I was first diagnosed with cancer, people that you didn’t know, that you’re good friends with say, ‘Oh, I had cancer,’ it’s such a surprise. It bonds us in a different way.”
One of the ways the Relay helps is by raising awareness about cancer, and ways to battle it, such as early detection. According to the World Health Organization, early detection can greatly increase the chances of surviving cancer.
“If i could say anything publically I would tell my sisters in the world to self breast examinations,” Myler said hoping to leave a bit of wisdom to those who need it. “I have two kinds of cancers that never would have shown on a mammogram. The really important thing is early detection. I know a lot of people say ‘I don’t want to have a mammogram’ or ‘I don’t want to have a prostate exam, cause I don’t want to know’. Are you kidding, information is king, the earlier you catch it the better chance you have of beating it. So please be proactive about your health.”