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Rainbow Lights Sky During Relay Survivor LapBy Susan Bush
12:00AM / Friday, May 19, 2006
North Adams - Just moments before the first-ever American Cancer Society Northern Berkshire Relay For Life stepped off with a 6 p.m. survivor lap, something remarkable happened.
|Brianna Trudeau, 4, is a cancer survivor.|
A days-long rain stopped, the sun slipped out from behind thick gray clouds, and a rainbow arched over the Noel Field walking track.
Cancer survivor Pat Mancuso then led a multitude of survivors on their victory walk somewhere under the rainbow.
And the cheers and applause of friends and family members must have been audible somewhere over it.
Jared Leavens, 7, walked a Relay For Life survivor's lap.
"I Owe My Life Right Now To Cancer"
Ray Smith has survived Hodgkins cancer twice and is in a seventh year of remission. The May 19 survivor lap marked the first time Smith has participated in a Relay for Life, he said during the event's opening ceremony.
"Cancer - I remember the first time I heard the word, it hit me to the core," Smith said to the about 200 people gathered within and around a large tent. "I wanted a normal life, I didn't want to think about cancer. I wanted normalcy."
But cancer refuses to be ignored, and ultimately, his battle with the illness led Smith, who had left the Berkshire region, to return home, to reconnect with his family, and meet the woman whom he married. He and his wife now have two children, Smith said.
And it was cancer that served as the catalyst for the life he now leads, he said.
"I owe my life right now to cancer," he said.
Adjust The Sails
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts President Mary K. Grant is a cancer survivor, she said during her remarks.
While a student at the then-named North Adams State College, Grant learned that her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. And about two decades later, after taking the helm at MCLA, Grant was diagnosed with the illness. Grant spoke of the support and caring that she found in the Northern Berkshire area, and added "The spirits here are not dampened by this weather, which says a lot about the people here."
She shared a quote that brought her some solace as she fought her cancer.
"Perhaps I can't control the wind, but I can adjust the sails."
Pat Mancuso led the survivor's lap.
City Mayor John Barrett III lost his wife Eileen Barrett to a cancer that was diagnosed very soon after the two were married.
"As someone who has been touched by this myself, I understand every aspect of this," Barrett said to those assembled on the field.
Barrett shared that Neil H. Ellis, CEO of First Hartford Realty Corp., the firm developing the former K-mart building, lost a 15-year-old son to leukemia some years ago. When he learned about the Northern Berkshire relay, Ellis made a $1,000 contribution, Barrett said.
Barrett has said that he is most proud of working to establish the Eileen Barrett Oncology Center at the North Adams Regional Hospital and he reiterated that sentiment during his remarks. Barrett announced a $500 donation to the Eileen Barrett relay team as well.
Drive Three Hours, Walk Three Hours
Sheila Bounds of Florida organized a 37-member "Cure Crusaders" team. Her brothers Don Gregory of Sutton, Vt., and Adams resident John Bartlett were among the team members and were slated to walk the track between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., Bounds said.
Sutton drove over three hours to attend and participate in the relay.
Janice Law and Norm Roberts walked the survivor's lap.
"I've gotten involved with the relay back home," Gregory said. "We've had many family members affected by cancer."
Roy Burdick of Florida was among those who walked the survivor lap.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and skin cancer, he said. The relay offers opportunity for education, support, and provides living proof that there is reason to hope after a cancer diagnosis.
"It's good for people to get together and have this support," he said. "People can have a good time and there's education available for people, too."
Relay teams planned to have team members walking along the track throughout the night. The track was illuminated by hundreds of luminaries purchased in honor of those battling cancer or in memory of those who lost their lives to the illness. Tall torches added a soft glow to the walking arena. Rain continued to pelt the walkers intermittently and most participants took the weather in stride as they continued to walk while garbed in raincoats or protected by umbrellas.
The relay concludes May 20 at 11:30 a.m. and the closing will feature remarks from event co-chairwomen Donna Blair and Donna Briggs. The event coordinator is Mary Robert, a volunteer with the American Cancer Society.
Laura Summer was among the many volunteers who lit luminaries.
A children's carnival was in full swing during the May 19 evening and is expected to resume during the May 20 morning.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 802-823-9367.
A multi-photograph slideshow of the Northern Berkshire Relay For Life is now posted at a www.iberkshires.com web site.