Cancer survivors fight back for others

Relay For Life Auburn raises money for American Cancer Society
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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When Sue Potter was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, a binder from the American Cancer Society provided her with resources that made her feel less out of control. Members of the Auburn community provided her with overwhelming support that made her feel a sense of connectedness. Both were instrumental in helping Potter stay strong through her year of treatment. Two years later, Potter, of Grass Valley, is cancer-free and participates in Auburn’s Relay For Life, when she can, to pay it forward. “When I walked in the survivor lap, to me, that was very inspirational because there was people in all different phases, newly diagnosed, people who had just finished treatment and those that had been out of treatment for 20 years,” Potter said. “We were all walking together. It makes you realize it’s not just you.” Relay teams are raising money for the American Cancer Society by taking turns walking the track at the Gold Country Fairgrounds for 24 hours, symbolizing that cancer never sleeps. The event on Saturday, August 20, also features a Luminara Ceremony to honor and remember those touched by cancer. Many local cancer survivors said Relay For Life is a chance for them to celebrate beating an often intimidating diagnosis. Money raised for the American Cancer Society goes toward things like helping patients pay for transportation to doctor visits, order wigs at a discounted price and support groups. It also goes toward research for cures. Potter, who now volunteers in a support group for women who have been newly diagnosed, said surviving cancer has changed the way she lives today. “I actually live a fuller life. It teaches you to let go of the little things and focus on the important things, for me that turned out to be people and nature,” Potter said. “I was just overwhelmed by how people in the community offered to help me out. I try to pay back in whatever ways I can. It’s my way of giving back to the community that helped me.” William Butrica, 76, of Roseville volunteers to perform as Billy the Tramp Clown at Relay For Life. He beat prostate cancer and has stayed cancer-free for 14 years. “I’ve been cancer-free all this time now. I celebrate every year at Relay For Life,” Butrica said. “When you hear cancer you have this tremendous fear, attitude is tremendous. A little prayer doesn’t hurt, but the attitude you carry is like karma.” Butrica said in addition to celebrating survivorship, he enjoys being a part of the effort to raise money toward cancer care and research. Peggy Christensen, 57, of Auburn, first participated in Relay For Life when her mother had cancer. Christensen said her thyroid cancer was cured more easily because of medical advances. “Ten years ago or 20 years ago I wouldn’t have had such an easy time because of the advances and research. Before it would have been a death sentence,” Christensen said. “That kind of made me look at it in a different light. Being at the relay and being with all these survivors gives you so much hope and strength.” Doris Williams, 75, of Auburn, said she continues to come back year after year because of the people she meets. “The ones that have beat cancer come back every year,” Williams said. “Because once you have had cancer you know, you never forget.” Potter said without the support of the Auburn community, her journey with cancer would probably have been a lot more difficult. She said most everyone has been affected by cancer somehow, making Relay For Life a great cause to get involved with. “As you go through treatment you just have to buck up and do it. You’re going to survive it, at least that is the way you have to look at it,” Potter said. “I’m so thankful I love in a small town because there is a sense of community here.” Reach Sara Seyydin at ______________________________________________________ This is part of a four-part series on Auburn’s Relay For Life annual event. Read and comment on the entire series at this site/visit Sunday: How Relay for Life inspires one who has undergone cancer treatment Monday: A cancer survivor shares what relay means to her Tuesday: A look back at the first Relay and how it’s helped Auburn residents over time Wednesday: Learn about the most successful Auburn area team and how you can help Auburn Relay For Life event schedule When: Aug. 20-21 Where: Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St., Auburn Opening ceremony 10 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 20 Survivors lap 10:30 a.m. Aug. 20 Luminaria ceremony 9 p.m. Aug. 20 Fight Back/Closing ceremony 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 21