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Relay for Life is personal, public way to fight back

Another View
By: Tony Hazarian, publisher, Auburn Journal
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As I sat down to write for this space, my intent was to punch out a few hundred words of support for the annual Auburn Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society event that will take over the Gold Country Fairgrounds this weekend. I hope I still accomplish this, because the Relay is worthy of everyone’s support. Cliché, but true: Every person has been affected by cancer in one way or another, either having it themselves or knowing someone close to them who has had it. Cancer is ugly and unkind. It doesn’t discriminate. It finds a home in good folks and people who have made some poor choices. It’s the common enemy, no matter your spirituality, your politics, your country or your bank account. Every day, tens of thousands of physicians and caregivers provide treatment and comfort for millions of people worldwide with cancer. While detection and therapy methods improve every day, we’re still a ways off from finding a cure. But there’s hope, and that’s where Relay comes in. Relay for Life offers communities like Auburn a chance to reflect, grieve and endure our ongoing battle with this deadly disease. It gives us a unified way to fight back, with our legs, lungs and pocketbooks. And it provides a venue to celebrate those who haven’t given up, who have fought back and survived. At 10 a.m. Saturday, fund-raising teams will take to the shaded driveway loop at the fairgrounds, beginning a 24-hour odyssey of fellowship, faith and focus on raising money for cancer research. They will endure opening jitters, mid-day heat, midnight fatigue and sunrise giddiness before crossing the finish line at 10 a.m. Sunday. If you can’t make it to the event, go online to relayforlife.org and find the Auburn Relay through the search engine in the upper-right corner of the page. Once you do, look for a fund-raising team or individual you know, and send them a donation. Or just give an online donation to the Auburn event. That’s what I did. For many of the past 20 years, I’ve been a participant and fund-raiser for Relay, whether it was in Tacoma and Gig Harbor, Wash., Folsom or Auburn. Family and work obligations seem to have gotten in the way the past couple of years, but I usually found myself on the track for an hour or two most years — usually between 2 and 6 a.m. For me, that was a peaceful time to take in what Relay was about. The luminaria along the walk still burned brightly, illuminating the hundreds of personal tragedies, triumphs and memories of cancer battles waged by others. There was the son or daughter who died much too young. The grandmother whose long, valiant fight gave strength to her family. The friend whose smile could light up a room, and whose luminary flame still brightened the hearts of those who remember her. Their stories were my stories. Like you, I’ve lost friends and family members to cancer. I also have survivors in my tribe and those still fighting, including two former newspaper colleagues dealing with brain and blood cancer, respectively. I always knew there would be more, and that rang true Tuesday with an e-mail from a friend who was diagnosed with prostate cancer following a routine exam a couple of weeks ago. Detected early, the cancer will be surgically removed this week. After a few weeks of recovery, he’s expected to recover fully. That sounds neat and tidy, but it likely will be anything but, for him or his family. There will be plenty of worry and wonder, first if all the cancer was eliminated, and then whether it will return. In time, recovery days will turn to weeks, months and years. Then, and only then, will he earn the badge of cancer survivor. For me, that is what Relay for Life is about. Cancer is a tough opponent, but it can be beaten. It takes a lot of individual fight and community togetherness. It takes hope. Celebrate. Remember. Fight back. You can do all three this weekend at the Auburn Relay for Life. Tony Hazarian is the publisher of the Auburn Journal. ------------------------------ AUBURN RELAY FOR LIFE When: 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 15 to 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 16 Where: Gold Country Fairgrounds, Auburn Info: relayforlifeauburn@hotmail.com