March 20, 2014

Werner Braun: Relay for Life honors cancer survivors

It’s the rare few among us who haven’t been touched by the lives of friends or family members who have been given a diagnosis of cancer. I know I have.

My mother had cancer, but luckily for us, she outlived hers. Many others aren’t so fortunate. When you see what people with cancer go through, and what their families go through, it can be heart-wrenching.

A recent program presented to my Carpet Capital Rotary Club focused on what we, in this community, do to support those who have been handed a diagnosis of cancer.

Cynthia Wheeler, Relay for Life specialist for the American Cancer Society (ACS) of Whitfield County, was on hand to talk to us about some of the significant services the ACS in Dalton provides, many that play a vital role in a patient’s sense of well-being.

One that she mentioned is called “Look Good, Feel Better,” a service that involves tending to a patient’s personal appearance.

We all know that whether you have cancer or not, it’s important to have a good personal image. But for many women undergoing chemotherapy and related treatments, the results of losing the hair on one’s head can be devastating. And many patients also lose eyebrows and eyelashes due to the chemicals used in the drug therapy. This can adversely affect self-esteem, as we all know.

So the ACS provides “Look Good, Feel Better” sessions in which master cosmetologists meet with female patients to help them choose wigs (should they desire), apply makeup and explore skin care options to deal with the changes that may be occurring in their skin as a result of the treatments.

This is a great service, one of many the American Cancer Society provides. But perhaps their primary focus is on Relay for Life, an annual celebration for cancer survivors and patients which includes an overnight “relay” and celebration. This event, sponsored by local ACS offices throughout the country, helps raise money to fund cancer research, early detection and education programs, and patient services.

This year’s Relay for Life in our area is May 2-3 at the North Georgia Fairgrounds from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m.

The way it works is that individuals form teams of between 10 and 15 members who take turns walking around the track during the evening hours. Each team member is asked to contribute $10 to the cause and to raise, or get pledges for, at least $100 more.

There are many special activities that take place during a typical Relay for Life. Cancer survivors kick off the event with a Survivors Walk in which they lead off on the first lap. Their supporters, families, friends and others cheer them on as they “pay tribute” to those who have fought the disease and won.

The Luminary Ceremony takes place in the dark, with the track lit by luminaries to guide the way, to honor cancer survivors, and to remember those who have lost their lives to this disease.

As Cynthia reminded us, this is not just a fundraiser to fight the diseases of cancer; it’s a life-changing experience.

At a Relay for Life event, every person in the community has a chance to celebrate, remember and fight back. And each person who participates joins others around the globe as part of this worldwide movement to end cancer.

Each year, more than four million people in more than 20 countries raise funds to fight cancer and raise awareness about saving lives through the Relay for Life movement. Since its beginnings in 1985, Relay for Life has been held in more than 5,000 communities and has raised more than $4 billion, making it the single largest nonprofit event in the nation.

We’re fortunate to have a Relay for Life in our community, and I urge everyone to consider committing to the cause this year. Those who are interested in forming a team can do so by contacting the ACS office at (706) 279-2150. And for those who prefer a behind-the-scenes role in fundraising, there are other ways to support the cause as well.

Werner Braun is president of the Carpet and Rug Institute in Dalton.

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