Relay for Life kicks off in Plainfield
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Plainfield - posted Tue., Feb. 11, 2014
Plainfield Town Hall was the site of a Relay for Life Kick-off event on Feb. 6. Past Chair Wendy Brennan passed out certificates of achievements to teams and individuals who participated in RFL events last year. Altogether, 42 teams raised more than $92,000 for the American Cancer Society in 2013 alone.
ACS Relay for Life Specialist Lindsey LaFemina was on hand to award the group a Nationwide Top Ten Per Capita award. “The amount of money people raise in this area is impressive considering there are over 5,000 relays in the country,” she said. There are 63 in Connecticut alone.
But it was Michele Nelson’s talk that epitomized the reason behind all the work that goes into RFL events. Nelson was 23 months old when doctors discovered a stage four sacrococcygeal teratoma at the base of her tailbone. The cancer had already spread to other parts of her body. Her parents were overwhelmed.
“They didn’t know what to do,” Nelson said. This was 21 years ago and treatment plans weren’t a sure thing. “A doctor called them and asked if they would let him treat me,” Nelson said. Her parents agreed. Nine months, eight surgeries and lots of chemotherapy later, she beat it.
“I wouldn’t be here without the groundbreaking research you support,” she told the assembled group. “I have you to thank.”
The ACS is the second largest contributor to cancer research in the U.S. It donated $119 million last year, while the federal government funneled $5 billion into research. “The ACS starts a researcher,” Brennan said. “The government finishes the research.” The ACS also funds educational outreach programs, hosts candidate forums and advocates for policies and laws aimed at preventing cancer.
“Two out of three cancers are preventable through exercise and nutrition,” Nelson said. “That’s huge. The first step is to reach out to people so they can try to live healthy lives. Money for research is so necessary. We just have to work our way there.”
Brennan helped put some dollar amounts into perspective. For the cost of a magazine subscription ($20), 20 people can get connected through clinical trial matching services. For the cost of detailing a car ($100), four patients can access the ACS “Reach to Recovery” Program. It pairs survivors with new patients going through cancer treatments. For the cost of a smart phone ($250), patients and caregivers can get lodging at ACS houses near treatment centers. One thousand dollars helps identify cancer causing genes in DNA.
Karen Moreash has been participating in Relay for Life events for six years. She is a survivor of colon cancer. "You have to be your own advocate,” she said. Moreash was convinced something was wrong, but it took three medical visits before tests showed she had cancer. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. When she passed the five-year date, it was a milestone. She didn’t hesitate when Brennan called for survivors to step forward to receive pins for their accomplishments.
For more information on Relay for Life of Eastern Connecticut, call 860-779-1370 or 203-379-4883.