For the 18th year in a row, Carol Sims will celebrate the courage of cancer patients.
Sims, 71, will attend the Northern Wake Relay For Life event Saturday at Richland Creek Community Church. She is among 146 people who have spent the past year creating teams and raising money for the 12-hour event.
So far, the event has raised almost $30,000, according to organizers.
“We have met so many who are survivors and we’ve also met so many families with members who did not survive,” Sims said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, young or old or what, cancer affects everyone.”
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Relay For Life is one of the American Cancer Society’s most well-known fundraisers for cancer research. More than 4 million people participate in Relay events in 20 countries, according to the organization.
The Relay event for North Raleigh and Wake Forest started 13 years ago, said co-chairman Marty Coward.
Sims has been at all of them. And before that, she took part in Relay events in Kinston, where her family lived.
She started going in 1997 when her brother died of cancer. She appreciated the event’s message of hope.
It’s a major theme at Relay events – Sims remembers seeing luminaries laid out to spell “Hope.”
Luminaries are lit for people who finished cancer treatment and those who died from cancer. Lighting the luminaries is a hallmark of Relay For Life events.
“When you realize that they’re not just luminaries, they have names on them and they represent family members, a lot of which are survivors and a lot (who) didn’t survive, that’s when you start realizing how important it is,” Sims said.
In 2004, at the age of 60, the meaning of Relay changed for Sims. She was diagnosed with leukemia.
After six chemotherapy treatments, she attended the Northern Wake Relay For Life as a survivor.
Sims lost a lot of weight during chemotherapy. She was weak, and her hair had fallen out.
In previous years, Sims easily walked laps during Relay events.
But that year, it was tough. She was the last to finish the Survivor’s Walk, a Relay For Life tradition in which spectators clap until the last survivor finishes his or her lap.
“The event is really to applaud the effort and courage of survivors,” Coward said.
Sims said her first year participating as a survivor was emotional.
“I really didn’t realize how emotional it would feel, even though I had been doing it for seven years,” she said.
Sims kept going to Relay events because it gave her hope, which was key in her own cancer treatment.
“All the time when I was sick, I had this thing in my heart and my mind that God was my hope,” she said.
Want to go?
The Northern Wake Relay for Life will be from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, May 16, at Richland Creek Community Church, 3229 Burlington Mills Road, Wake Forest.
A pancake breakfast will begin at 8:30 a.m. Breakfast costs $5 and the money will go toward Relay For Life.