Twelve hours of compassion 0
Luminaries light the way at the Bancroft Relay for Life on June 8. NATE SMELLE SPECIAL TO BANCROFT THIS WEEK
As the sun disappeared behind the Eagles Nest, a small army of Red and Green clad supporters of the Canadian Cancer Society crawled from their duct taped tents and trailers ready for the annual 'Relay For Life' to officially begin.
The all-night fundraising drive celebrates the lives of those who are living with cancer, remembers loved ones lost to cancer, and fights back against the disease that is the leading cause of premature death in Canada. With approximately 40 per cent of Canadian women and 45 per cent of men developing cancer during their lifetime it is nearly impossible to find an individual in any community who has not been hurt by this disease.
Arriving on the scene to the haunting sound of six bagpipers piping, Millennium Park was filled with the compassionate spirit of the people of Bancroft.
Overhead a hot air balloon raised a few folks up above the tree line for a bird's eye view of our community in action.
A lovely garden space created by the Horticultural Society had over it an illuminated sign spelling out the word HOPE.
Under the light of this sign sat Tracy Millar, a member of the TD Canada Trust team.
"After acting as a caregiver for my father-in-law throughout his struggle, and then again looking after my mother during her fight, I feel inspired to be here," Millar said.
"This event makes a difference in people's lives. Last year when I was here watching the survivors walk I was crying my eyes out, knowing that soon my mother would lose her battle. People came up to me at that time to console me, offer a hug. It meant so much to me. Now maybe I can help someone going through something similar to what I have had to go through. Being here, being a part of this with my family is an amazing experience that helps me get through. It also teaches my daughters how rewarding volunteerism is, and how amazing it feels to learn that we can make a difference."
Millar says cancer has changed her life.
"It reminded me of how important it is to be there for other people," Millar said. "Helping people to heal is what this whole event is about. When you witness someone who is in a fight with cancer, you can easily see how much they value life. It inspires you to appreciate your health, your family and friends, and all that truly matters."
Reading some of the literature being passed around you learn that about half of all cancers can be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity, healthy eating, reducing high risk alcohol consumption and eliminating tobacco use.
All of these preventative measures are within every individual's reach.
A recent poll conducted by Ipsos Reid, on behalf of the Canadian Cancer Society, found that 92 per cent of Ontarians believe that businesses should reduce the use and release of potentially-toxic substances into our land, air and water in order to create a healthier environment and protect people.
Seems like a no-brainer: clean land, air, water; or, toxic land, air, water.
It is incredibly important that we are informed about what carcinogens and toxins are present in the environments we are being exposed to at work, in public, and especially in our homes.
As the Canadian Cancer Society strives towards a cure it stresses that we must adapt our lifestyles to a less carcinogenic routine if we are to overcome this all-consuming growth killing 25 per cent of all Canadians.
Education and prevention go hand in hand.
That is why the Canadian Cancer Society is calling for better labeling of carcinogenic ingredients and products. The more we know about the effects of the products we absorb into our bodies by one means or another, the better our chances of living a long, healthy life.
As Canadians we have the right to know whether we are being exposed to cancer-causing substances. In a democracy, the ability to make informed decisions about our personal health is not a privilege, it is an absolute necessity.
In terms of our personal health, we need better public education on the dangers of the hyper-consumerism defining the North American lifestyle. We also need greater accessibility to healthy food in our schools. It is essential for our government to responsibly manage and implement a comprehensive healthy eating and active living strategy in our schools if we are to progressively encourage the prevention of cancer.
Moved by the conversations, observations and information, it was impossible to not join in and walk a few laps in honour of the three relatives I have lost to cancer.
Walking along with the others to the soulful voice of Alysha Kyle singing her songs of hope it's obvious how effectively this community can come together when we truly believe in something.