WILKES-BARRE TWP. — The American Cancer Society Relay for Life held here Saturday was much more than an opportunity for area residents to raise money for cancer research. It celebrated the spirit of those battling the disease and those supporting them. And it marked the 100th anniversary of the society.
The relay was a 24-hour affair that included a luminary candlelight service, a campout and individuals and teams walking around a track relay-style.
Held at King’s College’s Betzler Fields in Wilkes-Barre Township, the event also included a signup session for a cancer prevention study, known as CPS-3. Volunteer participants read and signed a consent form, provided physical measurements and gave a blood sample. These participants will be followed for at least 20 years in an attempt to determine the effects of lifestyle, environment and genetics on the disease process. In the long term, it is hoped, this research will eliminate cancer as a major health concern.
Jim Mathieson, health initiative director for the East region of the American Cancer Society, emphasized the importance of the research. The benefits of the long-term study include a pre-diagnosis information base on those with cancer, he said.
“When someone is diagnosed with cancer, friends and family often ask, ‘What can I do?’” said Carol Marino, volunteer chair of the study. “Participating in the CPS-3 research is one thing you can do to help researchers better understand cancer and ultimately how to prevent it.”
The study, which has enrolled participants since 2006, with enrollment concluding in 2013, will include 300,000 participants.
Peggy Dwyer, of Trucksville, herself a cancer survivor and volunteer, collected information from participants in the CPS-3. She said getting involved and staying knowledgeable, coupled with good medical care, are the keys to a positive prognosis.
“I am also here to encourage my son and other young people to be active and aware when it comes to cancer,” Dwyer said.
Kyle Carr, 14, of Exeter shared a willingness to learn about the disease and to have fun at the same time. “It was a really hot day,” Carr said, “but it was worth coming out and learning about cancer and supporting a good cause.”
Many people participated or volunteered in memory of a loved one who had died of cancer or in honor of someone struggling with it.
Volunteer Kathryn Hughes, a cancer survivor, was especially proud that son Hunter had focused his Eagle Scout project on the event. “Many families battle cancer together in the long term,” Hughes said. “Events such as the Relay and the CPS-3 provide an opportunity to make a difference and to move toward a cure.”
Many on the 26 relay teams, which walked for 24 hours, expressed enthusiasm and gratitude. This year’s theme was “together for a cause.” The American Cancer Society directs money to both disease-prevention research and support for those still suffering.
Jennifer Washney, a health initiative representative for the Cancer Society, said those with the disease need only call the society, which is staffed 24 hours a day, to register. They will then be eligible for such programs as Look Good, Feel Better (which offers makeup assistance to women with cancer), Reach to Recovery (for those with breast cancer) and Road to Recovery (which provides transportation to and from medical appointments).
For more information, call the Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.