Strength in numbers

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Why will you Relay?

Cancer is the most frightening word in the English language. Saying it out loud can make a heart stop. To combat this fear, figuratively and literally, Relay for Life occurs once a year for 24 hours. On the American Cancer Society's website, Relay is defined as "a fun-filled overnight event designed to celebrate survivorship and raise money for research and programs of your American Cancer Society." In reality, the experience exceeds the definition.

I discovered Relay for Life during my freshman year and it has had a constant presence all four years of my time here at Cal. I had no idea what Relay for Life was before college and I had no idea what I was missing. I started as a participant and worked my way up from being in the DeCal to being a committee chair.

Relay has held a special place in my heart not because of the family I have made with the committee but the reasons I do Relay. I relay for my father who was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and for my aunt and uncle who also have survived cancer. I am fortunate to not have lost anyone close to me because of cancer.

I participate each year because I am tired of hearing the words "I have cancer." Statistics tell us that one in two men and one in three women will have cancer at some point in their lifetime. While this sounds like an exaggeration, it isn't. Cancer is something that is very real and it is something that is affecting each and everyone of us every single day. When I think of cancer, I am more angry and scared than sad because losing the most important people in my life terrifies me. I could not give my loved ones all the money in the world to help with treatments or ask God to take the cancer away, but the least I could do is walk.

This Saturday, over 800 students and 100 student groups will come together for an event that occurs only once a year on the UC Berkeley campus. Cancer is something that affects everyone and in a few hours, Memorial Glade will be transformed into a pathway for family, friends, and strangers to come together and hope for a cure.

Throughout the day, there will be team competitions, live bands and time to reflect upon those who have been affected by cancer. There will be different activities to show how the American Cancer Society supports cancer patients. Zumba instructors will be out to help keep participants healthy and Pantene Beautiful Lengths is partnering with the American Cancer Society to encourage people to donate their hair in order to create free wigs for cancer patients. There is plenty for the community to learn and enjoy throughout the 24 hours.

The Luminaria Ceremony at 9 p.m. helps us remember and honor those who have lost the battle, and support those who continue the fight today. We watch a slide show of family and friends who have been touched by cancer and participants are given the opportunity to share why they relay. It is truly an astonishing moment for friends, families and the campus community to come together to reflect upon a disease that is plaguing us each and every day. The decorated Luminaria bags surrounding the track light up our path and shows us that cancer is something that we can overcome.

When the sun rises the next morning, participants continue to walk until the 24 hour marker hits. Knees and heels are aching but the relationships and bonds created over the course of 24 hours are worth it all. Cal students, friends and alumni come back every year to experience the power of hope. This year, UC Berkeley's Relay for Life theme is "Video Games" and we (just like Mario and Luigi) want to "1-Up" for a cure. Last year's Relay for Life brought together more than $75,000 and we plan to exceed that number this year.

The truth is that everyone has a reason to relay. No one is or will be left untouched by cancer in some way, but we all can hope that, together, we will find a cure as we relay for life.

Make your mark today. Start a team, invite a survivor, volunteer or donate funds to this year's Relay For Life. Don't wait another day. Choose today to be a part of the cure. Celebrate, remember, fight back!


Ashley Vink and Anh-Thi Le are students at UC Berkeley and committee chairs for Relay for Life of UC Berkeley. Contact [email protected]

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