KARL BERGEMANN AND KEAGAN MITCHELL
One in four South Africans will be affected by cancer in their lifetime. This powerful statement graces the home page of the Cansa Foundation, who deal directly with patients, survivors and their families on a day-to-day basis. The condition has far-reaching emotional and physical implications and raising awareness about it is critical to creating an understanding of how to better cope with it.
To that end, the foundation has a string of different relay events aimed at raising awareness and gathering funds. At the weekend some 1 100 walkers gathered at the Stephen Reagon Sports Complex, in Westridge, for a 12-hour Relay for Life walkathon, in solidarity with those affected by cancer.
Cansa’s Leatitia Jordaan, the Relay for Life regional coordinator for the Cape Metropole, describes the event as something that has to be seen and experienced before it can be fully grasped – an emotional experience that is difficult to put into words.
“The concept of relay events comes from the United States, where they have hosted relays since 1985. In South Africa we have been adopting the same principals for the last 10 years.
“The primary purpose of the event is to raise awareness and funds and provide education and support for those affected by cancer. We had 56 teams of 15 people join at the start line with a number of walk-ons joining in to give us around 1 100 walkers taking part in our 12-hour event.
“It’s a very emotional event and one that you have to visit to understand for yourself. The luminaria is especially moving when we light candles in a paper bag with a photo of the survivors and thosed that have passed on. Cancer survivors open the event with the survivor lap, followed by caregivers and then family members and friends.
“This weekend we will be hosting the SA Navy relay for life at Wingfield army base, at 6pm and next weekend, on March 18 we will be in Athlone for the next relay event. There are six relays that happen in the Cape Metropole every year.
“We invite people to come out and see the event for themselves. We are a small staff and always need volunteers and committee members so invite people to contact us directly.
“We also have other relay events such as the relay recess for school children, which is mainly an awareness campaign with a 45 minute to an hour walk. We deal with things like healthy living and being sun smart. We also have the bark for life event for people who have dogs affected with cancer, which is a two-hour walk,” she said.
Among the walkers was Ann Adams,51, a former Talfesig resident, who was part of team Brave Star. Adams has done the walkathon for the past five years in honour of friends and family who passed away from cancer.
“We got our name that suited our journey with cancer. Every year I look forward to this and enjoy myself among old friends,” she said.
Adams who works at Nutz Galore in Canal Walk said she promotes the campaign by telling people more about it and also has pamphlets in the shop.
“I believe the more people are involved in this campaign the better. Everyone knows someone who passed from cancer and they should do it for them,” she said
Mitchell’s Plain support group facilitator Natalie Mackrill said the reason behind the event being held at night is the fact that cancer never sleeps.
“We walked around the track in teams of 10 to 15 people per team all night through participating in many various awareness and fun activities highlighting the plight against cancer. The evening crowned off with a beautiful and touching service at sundown where special candles are lit in honour of our loved ones we have lost and also those still living with cancer,” she said.
Mackrill lit her candle in honour of her sister Nicky who lost the battle with cancer a year and four months ago.
“She was both a breast and brain cancer survivor but when she was 40-years-old she lost the battle. She was more than a sister to me but a best friend where we can speak to each other about everything,” she said.
Mackrill said the message they wanted to send out to the public was to create awareness around the different types of cancer, raising funds on a large open community scale, towards researching treatments and a cure for cancer.
“We honoured the survivors who have fought the brave fight against cancer and supporting those who are still walking the journey,” she said.
The Mitchell’s Plain support group runs every Wednesday at 10am at Westridge library with anyone welcomed to join. For more details call Natalie Mackrill on 082 224 8910. Leatitia Jordaan can be contacted on 082 952 7797 or you can call the Cansa Foundation offices on 021 689 5347.