Cancer survivor says hope will light the way

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Relay for Life an overnight success

One step at a time. That’s Vic Mitchell’s mantra for living and for participating in a 12-hour walk-a-thon. It’s gotten him this far.

“Three years clear,” he remarked.

The stomach cancer survivor was last year’s honorary survivor at the Relay for Life. The event held to fundraise for the Canadian Cancer Society is not your average endurance test for charity. Mitchell enjoys the teamwork and the solidarity he gets from being surrounded by so many other likeminded individuals in a non-competitive race.

What he likes the most are the luminaries. These symbolic candles are placed all around the track in memory of those who have lost their battles with the disease or for courage for those who are still fighting. Either way, they inspire and light the way for the walkers to get through the dark Alberta summer night.

“It’s an incredibly beautiful time. It’s an unbelievable moment when you see all these things lit.”

The spiritual boost helps a lot but Mitchell is no stranger to endurance tests. He has biked 1,400 kilometres from Victoria, B.C. to Edmonton several times to raise awareness for celiac disease. He knows what it’s like to fight and that’s why he wants to get as many people out as possible, whether they have beat cancer or are still fighting the disease.

“It’s very important to get the survivors there because that’s what it’s all about.”

The first lap of the walk itself is called the Survivors’ Lap where cancer survivors, even if they aren’t on a team, can walk around with other survivors.

“They link arms, total strangers. Maybe friends, who knows? It’s just a wonderful time.”

He added this is not your typical cancer fundraiser because it doesn’t focus on any one form of the disease.

“The difference with this one is that it’s not just about breast cancer or just about stomach cancer or just about lung cancer.”

That’s what event co-ordinator Amanda Race hopes will encourage more members of the public to get involved, even if they just watch.

“We fight all 200-plus types of cancer that are out there. Our money goes to all of them.”

The annual Relay for Life takes place this Saturday from 7 p.m. to Sunday at 7 a.m. at the Fowler Athletic Track on Sir Winston Churchill Avenue between Sir Alexander Mackenzie and Richard S. Fowler schools.

To sign up, call Race at 780-437-8419 or email stalbert.relayforlife@cancer.ab.ca. For more information, visit www.cancer.ca.

The event’s goal is to have 120 participants including survivors. There are currently only 80 walkers on 14 teams, slightly less than last year’s figures.

Spectators are always welcome and anyone can purchase a luminary to help light the way. All money goes to the Canadian Cancer Society to help in their prevention, research, support and advocacy programs, plus administration.

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.