Charlene Wilcox says when cancer entered her family’s life, it brought with it many unknowns.
Her family didn’t know about all of the trips to Halifax that would be required for treatment and appointments.
They didn’t know that at The Lodge That Gives, at any given time, you will almost certainly find people from Yarmouth, Shelburne or Digby counties staying there during their treatments.
They didn’t know how important the Gilles Boudreau and Friends Cancer Help Fund is to the community.
And the list goes on.
“All of those things played such a whole role in mom’s cancer journey and until you have it or a loved one has it, you have no idea,” Wilcox says.
Wilcox is the daughter of Sandy Dennis, the former Yarmouth resident and town councillor who died from cancer in February 2019 after battling the disease for two years. Wilcox will serve as this year’s event ambassador when the Canadian Cancer Society’s relay is held at the Mariners Centre on Saturday, June 22. She will speak during the survivors’ reception.
“I’m going to talk about mom’s journey and how community minded she was and that when she was diagnosed with cancer, that’s when we really realized what that meant,” Wilcox says, in reference to those things the family weren’t fully prepared for but would come to understand and/or appreciate. “All of those things played such a role in mom’s cancer journey.”
At The Lodge That Gives, – which provides accommodations in Halifax for cancer patients and is one of the things that funds raised at the Relay for Life supports – Wilcox says when her mom had to stay there for six weeks, there were always people from Yarmouth there.
“It wasn’t open on weekends so mom and (her husband) Ken had to find a hotel every weekend. It was difficult. She was so sick that Ken practically had to carry her to get her in the car,” she says. “Other times mom and Ken would give rides to other people.”
Wilcox says the good news is there is going to be more done to help people with their travel and their access to treatment following a cancer care review that was carried out last year in the tri-counties.
“That’s good news and that’s a message I want to get across,” she says.
Yarmouth Relay for Life leadership chairwoman Myla Doucette says relay planning has been going well. It is expected 10 teams will be taking part. The Yarmouth relay is one of several in the tri-counties. There have been events in Digby, Clare and Lockeport. The money raised from the Lockeport mini relay – which this year was $18,374 – is added to over total of the Yarmouth relay.
The relay is an emotional and a fun event. The emotional moments come with the survivor and caregiver laps. It gives you a lump in your throat to see all of the cancer survivors, some still fighting the disease, wearing their yellow T-shirts. A new tradition of cancer warrior T-shirts (those fighting stage 4 terminal cancer) will also continue this year. And it is beyond moving to see the survivors walking with family members and friends who have cared for them. Wilcox says there can never be enough said about the caregivers.
“Mom could have never ever gotten through it without Ken. There’s just no way. He was incredible,” she says. “It is not easy to see your loved one like that.”
Another new lap this year is a Walk of Honour. This lap has come about as a means of doing something in memory of Cheryl Doucet-Surette, who was big part of the Yarmouth relay committee and who passed away in November.
“We wanted to do something in her memory so we came up with the Walk of Honour, which will follow the survivor, caregiver and team laps,” Doucette says. “We’re going to ask anybody – public, teams, survivors – whoever wants to take part in that lap to bring a picture of the person that they’re walking for. We’re going to have an area set up where they can put their pictures and they posters about why they relay, that’s going to be the Wall of Honour."
The lighting of the luminaries – which are in memory or honour of people who have died from cancer, have survived cancer or are fighting cancer – is also very moving. The Luminary Ceremony is at 10 p.m.
While it is the teams that fundraise for the relay, the public is encouraged to visit the Mariners Centre during the event to watch the laps and to support teams who will still be fundraising during the evening.
People can visit the Relay for Life Yarmouth Facebook page for more information about the relay and on ways to support it.
WHAT'S ON TAP
Here’s some of the things happening at the Yarmouth Relay for Life on Saturday, June 22:
• 4:30-5:45 p.m. Survivors reception
• 6 p.m. Survivors Lap, Caregivers and Team Laps, opening ceremonies, Walk of Honour
• 10 p.m. Luminary Ceremony
• Team laps start around 7:30 p.m. Themes include Holiday Lap, Thrift Shop Lap, Tutu Lap, Crazy Hat Lap, Get Loud Lap.
• Other activities: Hair cuts, drum fit, scavenger hunt, mock jail, silent auction, photo booth, entertainment.