YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – The Relay for Life season kicked off Friday at Youngstown State University, and survivors and those fighting cancer say it is important to support the cause.
The yearly event is nationwide and its goal is raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death among all Americans, exceeded only by heart disease. In the U.S., one out of every four deaths is attributed to cancer.
Barbara Cole is currently battling stomach cancer for the third time. Doctors first diagnosed her in 2001.
Cole, who took part in Relay for Life ceremonies at Beeghly Center Friday evening, said the diagnosis was a shock.
“Well, I thought I was going to die. I kept crying, this and that. Just drove me crazy,” she said.
Cole received a biopsy after complaining of stomach pains. After going into remission, the cancer returned once again in 2006. Two years ago, it spread.
Despite what seems like a never-ending fight, Cole is optimistic. She had her last round of chemotherapy on Wednesday.
“I’m doing good. The Lord is helping. Jesus is with me,” she said.
This is the second Relay for Life that Cole has attended, and she says being around others battling cancer helps.
“I feel good when I’m with others. We share our feelings together. They’re not alone, and we’re not alone. We’re all in this together,” she said.
Sandra Bell has been attending Relay for Life events for 15 years after beating breast cancer 17 years ago.
Bell said she was lucky with her cancer treatment, but she never lost hope. She always knew she would beat it.
“When they told us it was cancer, we just looked at each other and said, ‘Well, if it’s cancer, it’s cancer.’ You can’t do much about it,” she said.
Relay for Life’s annual walk began at 6 p.m. at Beeghly Center. Following the opening ceremony, Bell joined others in a survivor’s lap. At the end of Friday’s event, candles were lit to honor those who are living with cancer or those who lost the battle with the disease.
Over the course of a lifetime, one in three women and one in two men will develop cancer. The leading cancer in men is prostate cancer, while breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among women.
Closing ceremonies for YSU’s Relay for Life are at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Dozens of additional relays will be held through spring in the Valley in support of the cause. The next relay event is scheduled for April 29 in Niles.The American Cancer Society lists all its relays and events on the organization’s website.