About 2 500 people attended the Cancer Association of South Africa’s (CANSA) Relay for Life Athlone event at the Vangate Sports Complex last week.
The annual relay took place from 6pm on Friday March 16, until 6am on Saturday March 17.
This year 89 teams, consisting of 15 members each, took to the track to raise awareness about cancer.
One person from each team had to be on the track at all times to symbolise that cancer never sleeps.
The teams came prepared with warm clothes, bottles of water, food, coffee and white paper bags filled with sand and a candle, called luminaria bags.
The candles were lit on the Friday evening when some lights at the venue were switched off.
The luminaria bags were placed along the edge of the field and the teams did a silent lap in honour of all those who haD lost their lives to the disease.
Cansa Relay for Life Athlone chairperson Anthea Bingle said the event was held at a different venue this year and they had been struck by cold conditions and wind.
But, she said: “It was worth it. We got to experience one night of challenges and cancer victims face challenges everyday of their journey. The atmosphere was beyond amazing. You could feel the support, love, and encouragement of the families of the victims.”
The teams also took part in a bandana lap, which symbolised the loss of hair during treatment; the flag lap with different flags for the various types of cancer; the purple lap representing the colour of hope; the three-legged lap showing support for cancer victims; the food lap as many of the cancer patients and survivors go home to a house with no food, and a blanket lap where knitted or crocheted blankets from each team were handed over to Cansa for cancer patients.
Ms Bingle said everyone enjoyed the event and looked forward to registering their teams for next year’s relay.
“Despite the cold and wind they came out to support (the event). The cancer survivors and victims felt honoured and celebrated.”
Faziel Jacobs, who was diagnosed with rectal cancer two years ago, took part in the relay for the first time. Mr Jacobs was lucky to have detected the disease at stage one but he was having to use of a stoma bag to remove waste from the body.
“This year Cansa approached me to join the relay and it was an amazing experience. It was quite emotional and I met up with some people who were also affected. It was great to see their family and friends supporting them there,” he said.
The Thornton resident said it was important for cancer patients to have a support system.
“We need to shift our thinking and ask the patient what it is that they need instead of what we think they want to hear,” he said.
Mr Jacobs, 44, also took part in the Fedhealth XTERRA Grabouw triathlon on Sunday February 25. He said that although he came last, crossing the finish line was an achievement.
“I feel like more awareness needs to be created not only for those who have died due to cancer but for the survivors as well. Crossing that finish line was so worth it. I proved to everyone that I could finish it and cross any other line that I may need to.”
Carrolyn Michaels, from Vanguard Estate, was diagnosed with cancer in April 2015. Fortunately, she underwent an operation and was declared cancer free that month.
The 72-year-old participated in the relay for the first time and said although the event was emotional for her, she thoroughly enjoyed
“The people were all so friendly and spoke about their journeys. I feel that it’s important for them to host this every year.
“My advice for current cancer victims is to pray and trust that God will heal them.”