A DECLINE in numbers at the weekend’s Relay For Life would be a major cause for concern if raising money for cancer research was the only objective of this highlight of the Cancer Council calendar.
Fighting cancer takes money, and plenty of it, but the battle is fought on two fronts and the clinical front is only one of them. While laboratories, operating theatres and linear accelerators are important and must be funded, the other fight on the battlefield of morale is just as crucial.
Inevitably the fundraising total from this year’s relay in Orange will be lower than the record but for those who took part the victory over the temptation to surrender to cancer was a decisive one.
This battle was described a number of times by keynote speakers but it was also mouthed silently by hundreds who used the occasion to celebrate their own survival, that of a loved one or in a celebration of the life of someone who had died of cancer.
Messages illuminated by the light of paper lanterns, tied to balloons or shared with friends during a lap of a grassy playing field are all part of the affirmation of hope which a public expression like the Relay For Life encourages.
One great measure of the success of the relay phenomenon is the way it has allowed the community to talk about cancer. It could be said that a dollar target donated by a community without people walking in circles for hours could achieve as much as a relay weekend, but that is not true.
Even if the flow of research dollars could be sustained without high profile events, which is extremely unlikely, where would we be without the costumes, the raffles, the laughter, the memories and the tears for a husband, a wife, a sister, a brother, a nan or a pop?
We would still be in a place where a diagnosis was an instant death sentence, where the word was never uttered within earshot of children and where we couldn’t look a cancer patient in the eye. It is possible to walk in circles but finish in a different, better place.
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