At the end of the Oakley Relay For Life that took place last weekend, hundreds of people pledged to keep the fight for a cure going, fulfilling Relay’s third theme: Fight Back.
After celebrating the survivors and honoring those who have lost their battles to cancer, those who are left standing are asked to make a Relay pledge, a promise to keep searching for a cure until cancer is nothing more than a memory, a blip in the history books as a disease that no longer exists.
“Cancer is all around us,” said Oakley Relay board member Joe Ballard. “As someone who has terminal cancer knows, if we don’t fight back, who will? I’ll never see the cure for cancer, but I know going to my grave that maybe some day, for our kids, that it (a cure) will come.”
Ballard helped bring Relay to Oakley last year, serving as event chairman. This year, he stepped down as chair but remained involved in the organization of the event. While Relay is filled with many emotional moments, Ballard believes that the Fight Back ceremony, traditionally held at the end of the Relay event, is just as powerful as the Survivors Lap and the Luminaria Ceremony.
During the Fight Back Ceremony, participants pledge to keep the fight going, extending the Relay message throughout the community. Fighting back can take many forms. One way is to continue raising money for cancer research. Another is to educate friends and family about cancer risks or share your Relay experience. But some people take it a step further and make a personal pledge to change their lifestyle and lead a healthier life by quitting smoking, exercising more or improving their diet.
As part of the Fight Back movement, Relay participants pledge to keep the Relay message in the public eye for the other 364 days of the year. It’s a call to action to encourage participants and teams to go out into the community and keep the Relay spirit alive so that the next year’s event will be even bigger and raise even more money for a cure.
The residents of Oakley raised more than $70,000 this year, but the fight doesn’t end there. Relayers around the nation continue to fight by reminding their friends and family to get annual cancer screenings, writing to members of Congress to make cancer research legislation a priority, or educating others about American Cancer Society resources.
Relay participants write their pledges on cards and share their vows with the audience. Cancer isn’t contagious, but the disease doesn’t discriminate. Until a cure is discovered, everyone is at risk. But fighting back in mass numbers holds the promise of putting an end to cancer sooner than later. Relay For Life events shine a spotlight on the fight against cancer, but once the purple banners are taken down and the track is cleaned up, the Relay message must continue to spread.
Although the Oakley Relay has come and gone, Relay is still very much alive in far East County. Brentwood’s Relay takes place in June, but to get the buzz going, Relay teams will be Painting the Town Purple this weekend. On Friday, May 7, the Brentwood community is encouraged to decorate the city with purple banners, signs and bows – anything to draw attention to Relay.
For more information about Relay For Life and how to fight back, visit www.relayforlife.org.