RELAY FOR LIFE -- Local teams circle the high school track to honor survivors and help in the quest for a cure
The battle against cancer goes on 24 hours a day. That's one of the messages behind the Forest Grove Relay for Life, which returns for its eighth year this weekend.
It's an around-the-clock effort that involves hundreds of participants and volunteers. The 2006 relay begins on the Forest Grove High School track at 6 p.m. Friday and continues through the night until 6 p.m. Saturday.
The event is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and also serves as way to highlight cancer's impact on the community, celebrating cancer survivorship as well as remembering those whose lives the disease has claimed.
'Everyone knows someone or is related to someone who has dealt with cancer,' said Marine McBeth, the longtime manager of Frye's Action Athletics on Pacific Avenue. McBeth, who was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago, has captained a relay team, Frye's Friends, for five years.
Relay teams, which have spent months raising money for the event, will pitch camp at the track Friday and keep at least one member of the team circling the track all night long, for a full 24 hours.
Many of the relay's participants are inspired to join by their own experiences with the deadly disease.
McBeth, for example, was diagnosed with stage I cancer - cancer that has not yet spread - but had to undergo a course of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation therapy. Throughout her treatment, the Carlton resident still went to work every day, driving to St. Vincent Hospital in Beaverton each morning to receive the radiation therapy before heading to Forest Grove.
Like many cancer survivors, McBeth - now cancer free - credits the support of her family and friends with helping her pull through.
'You deal with it and you move forward,' McBeth said. 'We just keep moving forward, that's all you can do.'
Still, she gets nervous every time she gets a mammogram. 'You live with the fear of reoccurrence,' she said.
McBeth said she is inspired by people fighting more advanced stage cancer, for many of whom the prospects of survival are still grim.
'Those are my heroes,' she said. 'That's where I get a lot of my strength, seeing their battles.'
Relay teams solicit donations or hold events to raise money for the event. Twenty-nine teams, from two to 15 members each, hope to raise $37,000 for the American Cancer Society, the largest private non-profit cancer research organization in the country. The society holds Relay for Life events in cities across the country each year.
As part of the relay, the track will be lined with luminaria - special paper sacks with candles in them, which will glow through the night in honor or in memory of someone touched by cancer.
The relay also opens and closes with a special 'survivors lap' to honor those who have persevered through their own battle with cancer, and indicate that there is hope for beating the disease.
While it is too late to join a relay team, the event is open to the public, and everyone is encouraged to attend. Even without being on a team, the public is invited to walk the track, purchase a luminaria, or participate in a silent auction, said Crystal Messer, a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. Cancer survivors are particularly encouraged to attend and participate in the survivor laps that mark the beginning and end of the annual event.
'It's a time for us to really celebrate what they've been going through,' Messer said.