Cancer survivors, family members, caregivers, and other supporters of finding a cure for cancer took to the track over the weekend, walking in the Second Annual Goleta “Relay for Life,” a 24-hour event hosted by the American Cancer Society.

Over 250 community members headed to Foothill Elementary School at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, July 10, and joined in the now-global event honoring those who have been diagnosed with cancer. Fourteen fundraising teams pledged to have at least one member of their group on the field during the entire event, “because cancer never sleeps.” Collectively, the teams raised $18,027 of donations for the American Cancer Society.

However, discussion of funding hit the backburner as survivors reminded the community of some simple cancer-preventative actions, and the easy annual habit that could save your life.

All too often our response to the existence of cancer mirrors that of a child covering their eyes when a movie is frightening. But as adults, to blind ourselves to the reality of the disease is to put our lives at serious risk. Is this avoidance worth the potential consequences? Cancer survivors say no. Overwhelmed by the constant stream of new cancer studies and suggested lifestyle changes, many forgo any action at all, while others simply forget to protect themselves as they go about their busy lives.

Those who have been affected by the disease brought prevention back to the basics during “Relay for Life” in an attempt to offer a reminder to the community. Speakers simplified the prevention tips for the attendees: put out the cigarette, put on the sunblock, and put away the junk food.

It’s widely known that these choices reduce risks, but what is the number one most effective way to increase our chances of saving our lives from cancer? Survivors agreed: See a doctor.

A yearly visit to your physician is the action most likely to increase your odds of escaping this threat to your life. Everybody, regardless of gender, race, or age should attend regular doctor visits because, as gut-wrenching it is to hear the sentence “You have cancer,” it is worse to hear “It’s stage 3.”

A minimum of 10,000 Americans, likely more, die each year because they have not been screened for breast or colon cancer, participants said. Detected early, cancer is treatable and survivable. “Cancer can affect everybody,” said breast cancer survivor Patsy Dorsey. “Men and women need to get checked – catch it early.” If something feels weird – go to the doctor. If everything feels fine – go to the doctor. Cancer survivors know best – go to the doctor.

Lucero Corral was just 24 years old when the doctor told her that a lump previously diagnosed as a cyst was actually breast cancer. “I wasn’t even really scared,” said Lucero, “I didn’t understand what they were telling me.” About a week later, Lucero was informed that she would need a mastectomy immediately. Today, seven years later, she is cancer free and a volunteer for the American Cancer Society.

The only person in her family to be diagnosed with cancer, Lucero is one of many who have experienced cancer’s unpredictable nature. Despite being a risk-reducer, a cancer-free family history is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. Anybody can get cancer. Non-smoking, sunscreen-wearing, healthy-eating young people can get cancer. Lucero Corral’s pledged goal for the year is “to get my friends and family to go see the doctor.”

In the midst of the tornado that is politics, with society constantly grappling to find a middle ground between polar ideals, it’s rare to find a topic on which we all agree. Yet participants in the relay have found at least one thing we share, and that is the battle against this modern-day predator. This fear can be counterproductive, however. “Don’t be too afraid to go to the doctor,” said one of the more experienced cancer survivors. “The available treatments are getting better and better. I have seen great leaps.”

The American Cancer Society aims to continue leaping towards a cure for cancer, and Relay for Life is one way to further the effort.


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