One grandmother, one uncle and one close family friend (she calls him ‘uncle’) have all been taken away from her because of cancer. Her other grandmother is now currently recovering from chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Breast cancer, lung cancer and lymphoma cancer are words all too familiar for freshman psychology major Emily Maragni. Maragni relayed for her grandma Babci, uncle Tommy and ‘uncle’ Bobby.
“He had three kids, the youngest 6 years old,” Maragni said on the passing of her uncle. “It took a toll on everyone. It was surprising — he got so sick so quickly. We didn’t expect it.”
Relay for Life, a team-based overnight fundraising walk that includes activities, games, entertainment and more, was held in the Recreation Center on Friday, April 4. Colleges Against Cancer, Student Government and Phi Kappa Psi fraternity sponsored the event.
Each Relay for Life team registered took turns walking throughout the entire night — from the Opening Ceremony with several inspirational speakers at around 8 p.m. to the balloon send off, during which Colleges Against Cancer announced that the event had raised more than $71,000, at 4:30 a.m.
The night began with a Survivors Lap — survivors of cancer led the first lap of the night. Students rose for the survivors and offered them applause and a standing ovation.
The event also consisted of a Luminaria Ceremony that included a slideshow of photographs of those who’ve lost the battle to cancer. The slideshow was followed by “silent lap” around the illuminated track. The track was illuminated by candles in paper bags that students wrote on the names of their family/friends affected by cancer.
After the passing of her uncle, Maragni’s mother formed the family’s first relay team for West Orange High School’s Relay for Life event. Maragni and her family have been participating in Relay for Life for five years now.
“I think it’s a really good cause and it’s important to know how serious cancer is,” Maragni said. “It’s good that people come together to raise money.”
Raising money for cancer research through the American Cancer Society and spreading awareness of the deadly disease were frequent reasons for those who participated in Relay for Life. Many students share stories similar to Maragni’s.
“I want to relay because I’ve had close experiences in my family with cancer,” said a student who chose to remain anonymous. “You don’t really realize how close it is to you. All your loved ones are affected by it.”
The anonymous student relayed for a cousin who was diagnosed with cancer at 17 years old. The student’s cousin is now recovering, but the journey has still been extremely difficult and overwhelming.
“When you have someone in your family that is diagnosed, there is a lot of negative thoughts in the beginning,” the student said. “But there is always hope. The most important thing is to be there for the person.”
The student explained that though his or her cousin wished to be treated normally, the request was challenging.
“Don’t say like, ‘Don’t touch them, don’t do anything!’ They want to feel the normalcy of their life,” the student said. “Of course be there for them, but let them be as independent as possible. Let them have control over certain parts of their life.”
The student’s cousin was involved in several American Cancer Society organizations, such as Camp Can Do. Camp Can Do, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, allowed children diagnosed with caner to have a “normal” and enjoyable summer camp experience, while still having the proper medical attention available.
“A negative experience opens your eyes to how valuable certain things are, what really counts in life — things you often forget,” the student said. “Despite the hardships of the situation, you always have to look for the positive. As hard as it is, you got to look for positive in it. But there is always hope — that is most important.”
Students relayed for the loss of their loved ones, to spread awareness of the negative consequences of cancer and to fundraise money for cancer research, hoping that the fight against cancer will soon end victoriously.
“I feel like if people haven’t experienced Relay, they don’t know how important it is,” Maragni said. “The event gets to you emotionally.”
Maragni urges those who’ve never partaken in Relay for Life to begin participating.
“People should know that they should go to one Relay in their life,” Maragni said. “Once they go to one, they will never want to stop going. It’s an amazing experience.”