Remembering those who lost their battle to cancer

Team Never Give Up and dancers from Future Generation from Eastridge at the Relay for Life.

It was an emotional evening for many who attended the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) Relay For Life in Mitchell’s Plain – as residents commemorated family and friends who had succumed to cancer.

Dressed in purple, survivors, caregivers and teams gathered at Stephen Reagon sports field on Friday March 3.

The event had 75 registered teams, including one representing the Plainsman, and more than a thousand visitors. Relay For Life opened with a prayer and a dance by Care Bear Educare.

The survivors were honoured and did a survivors’ lap around the track as part of the Candles of Hope ceremony.

Candles were also lit and paper bags decorated in memory of or in honour of someone touched by cancer. These were then placed around the track.

Relay For Life is an overnight event which sees teams of 10 to 15 people spending up to 12 hours walking or running around a track. It is a celebration of cancer survivorship and presence in communities.

Cansa Relay For Life Mitchell’s Plain committee chairperson Saadiqa Abrahams said the event was successful and thanked everyone who was part of it.

“We the Cansa Relay For Life committee want to thank all our teams and community for supporting our event. Without our teams it would never have been such a great success. And to our survivors we are privileged to have treated them – they are our heroes,” she said.

Kneeling with a candle in her hand in front of her bag, Ruwayda Brennerswartland from Eastridge who is a cancer survivor, remembered her nephew, Iekaraam Theunissen, 26, who died of cancer.

Ms Brennerswartland received the news that she had breast cancer the same year Iekaraam died. She added that during her illness, she had a good support structure, which included her family, close friends and members of the Leadwood Seniors’ Club – and Cansa.

“I attend the event annually to show my support to those who are battling with cancer. My message to them is to always have hope and to have faith in God,” she said.

Eastridge resident Saron Fredericks said it was a wonderful event and she will definitely attend another one. “It was a blessed event, and it is good to see how many people care and support those with cancer. It is my first of many relays,” she said.

Lydia Oliver from New Woodlands, who is also a cancer survivor, read a poem to the crowd and offered words of encouragement to those who had cancer, as well as their families.

Leatitia Jordaan, Relay For Life co-ordinator for the Cape Metro region, said the event was a community-owned, volunteer-driven activity.

“As a community event, it fulfils a need for belonging that we all have. It also creates a sense of community by bringing people together in a moving and fun atmosphere, with sufficient time for cultivating relationships.

“As a result, community volunteers naturally take ownership, developing and implementing the event. A Relay For Life committee should reflect the diverse groups within a community to pull those groups of people to the event,” she said.

Money is raised primarily through team commitment fees, team and individual fundraising, and Candle of Hope donations. “However, much of the time is spent listening to music, camping out, participating in a variety of family and cancer-awareness activities, and most of all, enjoying the company of friends, relatives, neighbours, and co-workers,” said Ms Jordaan.