Relay For Life benefits cancer research

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
East Haddam - posted Mon., Sep. 19, 2011
A group of cancer survivors walked the first lap of the East Haddam Relay For Life. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
A group of cancer survivors walked the first lap of the East Haddam Relay For Life. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

“Cancer never sleeps, and neither will a lot of us tonight,” said Melissa Michalski, as she helped kick off the 2011 Relay For Life of East Haddam last Saturday, Sept. 17, on the grounds of East Haddam Elementary School. From that point until the early hours of Sunday morning, area cancer survivors, their families, friends and others concerned with the plight of the nearly 1.6 million people stricken with some form of cancer every year in the United States, would walk the improvised track encircling their team tents, all to raise funds for the American Cancer Society and the search for a cure.

Michalski and Donna Barney were co-chairs of this year’s event, which as of Sunday morning had raised just over $15,000. But with 20 teams registered, and people continuing to file onto the grounds, “We’re shooting for $32,000,” said Barney. This year marked her fourth as a Relay For Life organizer.

“I have many, many friends now undergoing treatments,” said Barney, who is herself an eight-year survivor of breast cancer. In addition, her mother-in-law and brother-in-law both have cancer, she said, further adding to her motivation.

The Relay For Life was started in 1985 by Dr. Gordy Klatt in Tacoma, Wash., to raise funds for the ACS. Since then, the event has grown to include more than 3.5 million people across the United States and in 19 other countries across the globe.

Ashley Hobbs was also doing her part to help raise money for the ACS, displaying a table full of hand-made jewelry that she and several of her friends made just for the relay, with all proceeds going to the ACS. This was her second year at the event. “We do a lot of bake sales, too,” said Hobbs, adding that last year they raised about $1,300.

Kendra Giulini is a five-year survivor of melanoma. She said that one day she went to the doctor to have a mole removed, “and he said to me, ‘Kendra, you have melanoma,’” she said. “After that, all I heard was ‘blah, blah, blah,’” she said, as her thoughts turned to her sons, whom she credits with keeping her going throughout her ordeal.

Calling her year of treatments “the toughest year of my life,” Giulini said, “Every Sept. 14 [the date her treatments ended], I give myself a pat on the back,” for making it through.

Breast cancer survivor June Govert said that she “was never sick one day, one minute of my life from cancer,” as her cancer was discovered when it was still microscopic. “But the cure is really hard,” she said of the often painful and harsh treatments needed to fight the disease.

Her memories of how friends in town and across the country helped her when they found out she was sick are some of her strongest. People much like those walking in the relay, who find the loss of one night’s sleep a small price to pay in comparison to what those suffering with cancer go through every day.



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