The Suburbanite
  • Jackson, Massillon events kick off Relay for Life season

  • Area Relay for Life events begin Friday and run through the summer. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the American Cancer Society.

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  • Angie Conley was six months pregnant when she was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time.
    She remembers reclining on the biopsy table, waiting for doctors to tell her what she already suspected.   
    “I just laid there, and I just cried,” Conley said.
    She underwent a mastectomy while carrying her child. Three weeks after her daughter’s birth, Conley started chemotherapy again.
    Conley, now 35 and cancer-free, plans to share her story at the opening ceremony for Jackson Township’s Relay for Life event, which starts at 6 p.m. Friday at the high school and runs through noon Saturday. Several other area Relay for Life events will take place throughout the summer.
    This year marks the 100th anniversary of the American Cancer Society. Alan Dolan, who’s organizing the township’s event, said that makes Jackson’s seventh relay especially exciting.
    Attendees can expect performances from an Elvis impersonator, Jackson High band Good Hours and the Hitmen. The event is themed “countries from around the world,” said Jill McCauley, who’s organizing Jackson’s relay.
    Lake Township had a relay scheduled for this weekend, but it was canceled in April because of low participation, said Lindsay Winkler, American Cancer Society income development manager for the Northeast Ohio region.
    There weren’t enough teams registered or committee members on board to host a successful event, so the focus was switched from putting on a relay to rebuilding the program. Those interested in helping can contact Winkler at 888-227-6446, ext. 2225.
    Most teams previously registered for the Lake event have chosen to attend relays in Ellet, Green or Jackson Township, Winkler said.
    So far, there are about 250 participants on 24 teams signed up for the Jackson relay. The event has already raised about $25,000, and the goal is $73,000, Dolan said. People can continue to donate until the end of August.
    McCauley said she’s looking forward to this year’s relay because the event has gained some consistency. People have started to come back year after year, and some of the entertainment is the same.
    Although some parts are repetitive, McCauley said, she always finds the relay poignant.
    “Even though we've done this for so many years, we still don't have a cure,” she said.
    For Conley, one of the most meaningful aspects of Relay for Life is the relational connection. She attended a relay three days after she began chemotherapy following her first cancer diagnosis. When it was time for the survivor walk, a woman approached her and asked whether Conley was a cancer survivor.
    “She said, ‘You poor dear. If it makes you feel any better, I’m a 30-year cancer survivor,’ ” Conley remembered.
    It was the best thing she could have heard at the time.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I hope to be that 30-year cancer survivor talking to that 27-year-old girl, telling her it’s going to be OK,” Conley said.
    Reach Alison at 330-580-8312 or alison.matas@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: @amatasREP