Hundreds of cancer survivors were joined by their family, caregivers and physicians on Saturday at Central Park for the 21st annual Relay for Life of Santa Clarita Valley.
The two-day event started at 3 p.m. with the opening ceremonies directly followed by both the “Survivor Lap” and the “Team Lap.”
Two-time cancer survivor Sandy Ends shared her story during the opening ceremonies, describing her fight with both breast cancer and then pancreatic cancer.
“I love mammograms, you should too — they are your life assurance,” Ends said.
She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 19 years after her original breast cancer diagnosis and said she was “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
“Wouldn’t that piss you off? It pissed me off,” she said. “I’ve been in weekly chemo for about 15 months, and I say, ‘Yay,’ I welcome it — bring it on because that’s my life assurance. Friends and family think I’m nuts with my attitude about how I treat these things. We survivors choose hope, and we put one foot in front of the other and keep going.”
After the “Team Lap,” teams began the actual relay, which would continue on until 9 a.m. Sunday morning.
“My colleagues and I continue to push the boundaries of excellence in breast cancer care,” said Dr. Greg Senofsky, a breast and melanoma surgical oncologist at UCLA Health. “It’s a true joy for us to do this, and every day, we fight harder and harder to try and cure more patients and give women the mental and physical peace they deserve with this disease.”
Seventy-nine teams, with anywhere from five to 50 members, ensured they had one person on the track at all times through the night and into the morning.
Booths lined the track, which gave teams the opportunity to have some fun as they completed the relay.
This year’s ACS theme was “Game Over, Cancer,” and the event’s theme “RELAYopoly,” gave teams the opportunity to decorate their booths with their favorite board or video games.
American Cancer Society (ACS) volunteers, Brad and Laura Peach, ran the “Mission Tent” which had a life-sized game of Operation and Trivial Pursuit wheel.
“We’re talking about the mission of the American Cancer Society and I’m giving out information and telling everyone anything they need to know about the society, plus maybe having a little bit of fun,” Brad Peach said.
This is the Peach family’s 20th year volunteering with the ACS, which began when Brad’s mother was diagnosed with cancer.
“It’s a chance for nobody to ever have to deal with having cancer again,” Brad Peach said. “And believe me, we’ve come a long way and it will happen in this century.”
Laura Peach volunteered with the ACS for 18 years before she was diagnosed with skin cancer.
“You think being involved so much I would be used to hearing about cancer, but actually hearing those words it really hit me,” Laura Peach said.
The track also had other Monopoly elements, including “RAILroads to Recovery” and an ACS jail.
“It’s such an incredible event and it’s so amazing to see our community come together to support those of us who have been going through this tough time,” said Quinn Phillips, a breast cancer survivor.
Throughout the night, there will be fun activities for teams to participate in to keep them going, including a midnight movie, human foosball and watermelon eating contest. There will also be a “Luminaria Ceremony” and “Silent Lap” honoring those who had lost their lives to cancer.
In the morning, the relay will end with a final lap and “Fight Back Ceremony” at 8:30 a.m.
The ACS has raised over $7 million in Santa Clarita, and this year alone, raised more than $190,000.
All of the proceeds from the event will go directly to helping raise funds for research, education and patient services, according to the ACS.
“You fight on and we’ll fight on — and together, one way or another, we’ll beat this disease,” Senofsky said during his speech.