Relay races for life
Each year, the American Cancer Society (ACS) holds a 12-hour event called Relay for Life, which is designed to raise money for cancer research and both remember those who have died because of the disease and those who have survived it.
Every year, more than 3.5 million people in 5,000 communities across the United States, as well as communities in 20 other countries, form teams and camp out around a track to raise money and awareness for this devastating disease. Each team is required to have at least one member walking the track at all times. Seton Hall will hold its annual Relay for Life April 15 in the Richie Regan Recreation and Athletic Center.
Michael Beaty, SHU sophomore and a member of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity will participate in Seton Hall’s Relay for a second time.
“I guess I can say the reason why I Relay is because I have seen the horrors of cancer in my life,” Beaty said. “I feel that this disease is especially horrible because the survival rate is never guaranteed.”
Beaty said the main reason he participates in Relay is because his mother is a breast cancer survivor and he truly believes that there will one day be a cure for cancer.
“I don’t want people in the future to witness what I have seen. No one should have to see how this disease hurts people and destroys their lives,” Beaty said.
Jacob McCartney, SHU sophomore and member of Alpha Sigma Phi, participates in Relay mainly to show his support for the ACS so that one day, “cancer [won’t] have to be an end anymore,” he said.
During each event, one lap around the track is designated for the Luminaria Ceremony. This lap takes place once the sun goes down and is meant to remember those who have lost the battle against cancer. During this lap, the entire track is lined with candle-lit bags, each bearing the name of a loved one.
Participants often walk in silence during this ceremony, offering each of them a chance to reflect on why Relay is so important. Many students that Relay, like Sophomore Lorina Murphy, commemorate a loved one lost to cancer.
“When I was young, my best friend’s aunt was diagnosed with cancer. During my freshman year of high school, she passed away,” Murphy said. “She was like my own aunt. So that is why I relay: for my Aunt Marcy.”
The Luminarias are meant to commemorate the friends we have lost. Caitlin Siegert, sophomore, will be purchasing a Luminaria for one of her best friends, Matt Brand, who died of leukemia.
“It was right before graduation that Matt died, so they dedicated a seat to him at the ceremony and his mom went up to get his diploma. In February 2009, heaven gained another angel,” she said.
Despite the sadness associated with cancer, Relay is meant to be a celebration. In addition to the Luminaria ceremony, there is also a survivors’ lap that kicks off the event and inspires everyone to continue the fight. Seton Hall student Ben Prohaska is one of these survivors.
Prohaska was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, at age 16. He endured nine months of chemotherapy, during which he had a companion: his mother was also undergoing treatment at the same time for her diagnosis of breast cancer. His treatment consisted of one round of chemotherapy for five hours, followed by five seven-hour rounds per week.
During the first two months of his treatment, everything was going well. It was not until the last three months that the side effects began to take over.
“I was vomiting, losing my hair, everything” he said.
It is now three years later, and both Prohaska and his mother are currently in remission. If his cancer does return, however, there is only 5 percent survival rate.
He will be attending Relay this year as a registered survivor because to him, “it’s more than just the money. It has a deeper meaning.
“Yes, Relay does do a lot of fundraising to find a cure, but I’ve been there. For me, the support is more important. Everyone always talks about what awards they won, what trophies they received in school and all that. For me, the award is survival.”
Laura Masino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.