Despite attracting fewer participants than last year, the 18th Thompson Relay for Life April 13-14 still saw 25 teams raise $95,654.83 in cash to fund cancer research, with Angie Singh and Krystal Stuckless raising the most money individually.
Relay for Life committee chair Donna Wilson said this year’s walk also received $56,606 through gifts-in-kind and prizes to give away.
Outside of featuring side attractions like live head shavings and a performance by the Thompson Community Band, Saturday’s festivities also aimed to shine a light on the northern cancer survivors themselves.
Lynn Lake residents Pat and Neil Campbell served as the night’s guests of honour and highlighted everything they’ve had to endure since they learned about their respective diagnoses.
Pat said finding out she had colorectal cancer in 1996 came as an especially big shock, since she witnessed countless patients die from the disease during her career as a registered nurse.
“Sometimes I think that my cancer story is a dream because I’m still here after seeing what happened to the other patients,” she said.
Despite this initial fear, Pat managed to catch the disease early on and book the necessary treatments in time, and has been cancer free for the last 23 years.
“What I’m trying to stress is to know your body,” she told the crowd Saturday evening. “If there’s anything unusual with your body get it checked out. Know your symptoms. Early detection is why I’m here today. It’s why I’m a survivor.”
However, Pat had to go through a similar process six years ago when her husband Neil was diagnosed with both kidney and skin cancer in a short period of time.
While Neil’s condition has stabilized, the husband-wife duo remain wary of what some residents describe as abnormally high cancer rates in Lynn Lake, with the disease claiming the lives of many of their neighbours.
“It makes you wonder where you are living,” said Pat. “Was it something in the soil? In the air? Something in the water? Why did I get it and not any of my brothers and sisters?”
Donna Wilson steps down
This year’s event also marked the last time that Wilson will be organizing the Thompson Relay for Life.
She’s been involved with this event from the very start, serving as committee chair for the last 15 years, but Wilson is moving in the next couple of months and is resigning from the committee.
Wilson said that she didn’t make this decision lightly, since she’s met a lot of new friends and wonderful people through the Relay for Life.
Regardless, she remains confident that the Thompson relay will continue on without her, considering that northerners have raised over $1 million for the Canadian Cancer Society in the last 18 years.
“To the cancer survivors: never give up. Keep fighting,” she said. “And to the community and everybody who participates: thank you, because Thompson comes out in full force every year for the Relay.”
To learn more about the Relay for Life, please visit the Canadian Cancer Society’s website.