Relay commemorates loved ones lost to cancer

Team Angels, from Heideveld

Every year, candles illuminate the Turfall Stadium, creating a ring of light around the field to commemorate those lost to cancer.

The annual 12-hour Relay For Life, which was held from 6pm on Friday February 21 to 6am on Saturday February 22, is organised by the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) to create awareness about the impact of the illness.

Families come dressed in warm clothing with food and warm drinks and prepare to spend the evening on the field.

This year there were more than 70 teams with 15 people in each.

Throughout the relay, at least one team member is always completing a lap, signalling that those affected by cancer never actually get to sleep.

The teams make posters and small paper lanterns that often carry messages of hope and the pictures of loved ones who have battled cancer.

At 9pm everyone gathered around the field to place their luminarias and light the candles within. They closed their eyes, said a prayer for their loved ones and fought back their tears.

This year the event had 20 laps, each lap signifying a different aspect of cancer, and there was also a special lap, the Bag of Love Lap, that saw the teams donate bags of non-perishable food essentials to cancer patients in need.

Gawa Moyce, 56, from Kewtown, was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago. On a morning in October 2003, she woke up and went to shower as usual, but something that morning told her to check her breasts.

When she did, she found two lumps – a big one on her left breast and a smaller one on her right.

She had a mammogram at Gatesville Medical Centre (GMC) after which she learnt she had stage-two breast cancer in both breasts.

“I started crying when the doctor told me to sit down as I knew it would be bad news. I went home and told my mom, sisters and cousin and my mom started crying because she thought that I would die. I told her not be negative and that I would be okay.”

A month later, she started on chemotherapy for a few months and after that she took a drug called Equisin before being declared cancer free.

She is now part of the cancer support group that meets at GMC once a month on a Wednesday.

“I never realised that men could also have breast cancer, but they do, and so many women as well,” she said.

“I can talk freely now, and I am no longer embarrassed about it. This is my second cancer relay, and I really enjoy it.”