Relays brings hope, hair to cancer fight
BY STACI WILSON
Prompted by a billboard she saw during breast cancer awareness month, Janice Gavern scheduled an appointment for a mammogram in October 2011.
It was then her doctors discovered a small lump.
On her way to her pre-surgery appointment, Gavern suffered a brain aneurysm. In November 2011, she underwent brain surgery and breast cancer surgery – followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
“I’ve recovered from all of it,” Gavern said.
But transportation was an issue for Gavern as she and her daughter share one vehicle.
“The American Cancer Society got me transportation,” she said. “A volunteer driver took me to almost every doctor’s appointment, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
She said that service allowed her to concentrate on what she was doing to heal, instead of worrying about how and where rides would come from. “It made a big difference,” she said. “If I can do anything to give back to the American Cancer Society, I will do it.”
And that is why she Relayed.
Susquehanna County Relay for Life was held Friday-Saturday at the Montrose Area High School track.
Harford Fire team member Gail Batzel issued a challenge – she promised to shave her head if she raised over $1,000 by Friday. Batzel raised $1,400.
The uterine cancer survivor sat in front of her family and friends at Relay while stylist Amy Conrad took the clippers to her thick, blonde hair.
Chrissy Baldwin had her waist length hair shortened to above her shoulders, donating about a 12-inch braid to have made into wigs for cancer patients.
Honorary Chair Debbie Stalker told the crowd she had lost grandparents and an aunt to cancer. And in 2007, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Stalker has been in remission for six years, and was introduced to Relay for Life by Button-Weller team member, Don Button. “He knew my struggles as he is a survivor,” Stalker said.
“To those who support us, we will be forever grateful,” she said.
“I firmly believed – from the moment of my diagnosis – that the more helpful I can be, the stronger I am inside. I move forward, regardless of what my future holds,” Stalker said.
And that is why she Relayed.
Relay committee member and caregiver Donna Conklin likened the preparations for the event to that of a wedding. “It’s here and then it’s over,” she said. “But cancer is never really over.”
“Cancer is a disease that has touched almost every one of us,” she said. “That’s why we’re here.”
Following the opening ceremonies, survivors – all holding purple balloons – stepped off for the first Relay lap. They were met halfway, on the far side of the track, by their caregivers who stepped off in the opposite direction and carried white balloons.
When survivors reunited with their caregivers, the balloons were released to the sky.
And that is why they Relayed – to step forward together in the walk to fight cancer that cannot be walked alone.