| May 14, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - May 14, 2009 Survivors’ walk – the heart of the Relay For Lifeby Jeff Green

Participants in the 2008 Survivors' Walk.

At the beginning of each Relay For Life event, a special group of people walk the first lap around the track. It is called a "Victory Lap". The yellow-shirted Survivors, all people who have had cancer themselves, are the honoured guests of the relay.

“I think the survivors’ lap really galvanizes all of the participants in the Relay For Life. It very graphically, visually defines why they are all there,” said Adele Colby, who is the co-ordinator for the Survivors’ walk this year.

Colby knows a thing or two about the Survivors’ walk, and about cancer as well.

Adele was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, right while she was in mid-career as a senior advisor in the federal government.

“It was quite a journey,” she said in an interview this week, “it took me at least a year to start feeling that I wasn't going to die; the whole experience was somewhat brutal. Part of my healing was learning to reach out.”

Adele Colby recovered from her cancer and carried on with her life. In 2003 she retired, and moved with her husband to a property near Camp Oconto.

Shortly after that she was diagnosed with cancer for a second time.

“I was totally bowled over. I never thought that this would happen to me again after 13 years. My oncologist had been teasing me every year; when I had said I didn't think I needed to see him, he'd say 'We like you. We want to see you once a year'”.

As upset as Adele was with her second diagnosis, she “feels nothing but gratitude” to her oncologist and the staff at the regional cancer centre in Ottawa for being vigilant in her case, and starting treatments as soon as possible.

Over the past few years Adele has come to realize that her new community in Central Frontenac, a place she “moved to while dragging my feet as much as possible, is a really caring community”.

Adele has made use of her cancer experience as a facilitator with Breast Cancer Action Kingston. She facilitates a support group for women undergoing treatment. “I know that the more support people receive the better off they are, and truly only people who have had cancer know what it is like be diagnosed with cancer. We had one woman who came to our support group and said her family had told her she was going to die. She needed to be with people who were not willing to accept that; she needed to be surrounded by people who were fighters. They had all traveled a similar road and could support and encourage one another! She has a new lease on life!”

Adele's involvement with the Relay for Life started when the event came to the Parham Fairgrounds.

When Claire Macfarlane came to talk up the Relay for Life to a meeting of the “Friday Night Ladies”, a group of women who meet socially once a month and often make donations to worthy causes, Adele volunteered to head the Friday Night Ladies’ team at the first relay in 2007. After heading the team again in 2008, she decided to take on a larger role, and this year Adele is the principal organiser of the Survivors’ walk.

“What is being demonstrated at the survivors walk is very powerful. The people who are walking are saying 'yes, I have cancer, but there is life after cancer’, and that they will be back next year”.

There is a tent for survivors to meet each other, and where refreshments are served. As well, it is Adele's job to contact Survivors and offer them the opportunity to join the relay. “Not everyone wants to go public with their cancer, but for those who do, the Survivors’ Walk is a good experience,” Adele said.

The Central and North Frontenac 2009 Relay for Life is set for June 12 and 13 at the Parham Fairgrounds. For information on how to form or join a team or participate in another way, contact Sandra Clow at 279-2935 ext. 228 or Claire Macfarlane at 279-1133. 

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