Relay for Life offers chance to say thanks, help others

Alvina Cameron has already registered for Relay For Life, which strides out June 8 and 9 at Elks Park.

Canadian Cancer Society community giving co-ordinator Jen Dies watches as Arlene Smith and Alvina Cameron fill out their Relay For Life registration forms.

Canadian Cancer Society community giving co-ordinator Jen Dies watches as Arlene Smith and Alvina Cameron fill out their Relay For Life registration forms.

Alvina Cameron has already registered for Relay For Life, which strides out June 8 and 9 at Elks Park.

This will be her eighth walk through the night to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society.

Cameron has two reasons for participating – the awesome support she received when was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer and for the “wonderful, quick, efficient and compassionate treatment” she received while battling the disease.

“When I discovered my lump, my husband and I were so impressed with the quick appointments I received in order to get a diagnosis, she says.

New to the area, the Camerons had kept the news of Alvina’s cancer to themselves. But Will Sparks, former minister at First United Church, encouraged them to share their burden, not just with family and friends, but with their new church family as well.

It was at church that Cameron met Mary Gates, a woman who provided her with a valuable lifeline.

“She had gone through the same things and she got up, grabbed me by the hand and said ‘you’re coming to the great cancer support group,’” says Cameron.

In March 2004, she had two surgeries, quickly followed by chemotherapy and radiation, finishing her treatments in August.

In the middle of the second of her three rounds of chemo, and extremely weak, Cameron faced rainy weather to walk the Relay For Life survivor lap – at Gates’ insistence.

“The sun came out, they put shavings on the route, and I made it. And that also empowered me, because I was going into that deep, dark hole,” she says, eyes filling with tears. “And when I saw and heard all the teams clapping and cheering, I thought, ‘I can do this, I can do two more rounds of chemo.’”

Not only was Cameron back the next year, but she canvassed her community and entered a new team, known then as the Blind Bay Babes.

The name was soon changed to the Blind Bay Bunch – a team that grew so big it had to be split into two groups, with good friend Arlene Smith sharing the captain’s load.

Although she is not a survivor herself, Smith walks for all the people she has lost and because Cameron inspires her.

“I am a survivor. I celebrate that I am a survivor…” Cameron says, holding her hand to her chest and tearing up again.

Two of Cameron’s younger sisters were also courageous, but lost their fight with cancer within four months of each other in 2011.

Cameron honours them and others by walking in the relay and her team invites cancer survivors to walk the special survivor lap and dine with them afterwards.

“They come and have supper with us at our site because it’s really important to celebrate,” she says. “Whether poorly or well, they are alive, and we need to live in the moment – we need to celebrate that.”

Relay For Life co-ordinator Jen Dies gives The Blind Bay Bunch a vocal pat on the back, pointing out the team has raised close to $74,000 in eight years.

“Their team is one of the older teams and they are always on the track,” says Dies.

And the Blind Bay Bunch is on-track to raise even more money for the Canadian Cancer Society.

A Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre event they are hosting April 19 and 20 sold out quickly and the team is looking forward to raising another $500 or $600 cleaning golf clubs at the Shuswap Lake Estates Golf Club.

The women will host a pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. April 27 at the Cedar Heights Centre. Tickets are $6 for adults, and children under six are free.

The theme of this year’s Relay For Life is nautical –  “drowning out cancer one wave at a time”

Register online at www.relaybc.ca or call Jen Dies at 250-833-4085 for more information.