Tina Yates and Debbie Bott walk for their mothers.
The co-chairs of the 2009 Relay for Life of Douglas County said they are not unlike any of the other hundreds of supporters who were walking around the South Junior High Track on Friday night, which was surrounded by luminarias to honor and remember those affected by cancer.
“We know people who have had cancer. We have family members who have had cancer, and we relay for them to help find a cure,” Bott said.
Both agreed that while emotionally difficult, the annual event never fails to bring them new relationships, and thus even more reasons to walk. Both walked the “Torch of Hope” lap with their mothers, who are breast cancer survivors.
“I don’t think it’s a moment you want to have to have with your family, but it really was a special time to share with them,” Yates said.
“One of the things my mother said as we ended was, ‘Boy, that was an experience,’ so I thought that was something I could give to her that she would remember for the rest of her life,” Bott said.
The night’s luminaria service was also special to Yates, who called it a family event. Her daughter was also in attendance.
“She’s the future, and I want to make sure that we don’t have to worry about walking that lap with her in a purple T-shirt,” Yates said.
Support was very much the theme of the night. Both women thanked the event’s speakers as well as the entire Lawrence community for the support they had shown.
“Like Don Gardner said in his speech earlier, we’re very fortunate, too, that we have the medical care in Lawrence that we have, and Douglas County,” Yates said.
Don “Red Dog” Gardner, a community health leader who recently received a prostate cancer diagnosis, also emphasized the importance of encouragement from friends and family for those battling, saying the fight would be impossible without them. Gardner also reminded those in attendance that the night was a great reminder that everyone, cancer or not, has problems, and asked for a 30-second moment of silence for former KU athletic director Bob Frederick, who had died about an hour earlier.
Yates and Bott encouraged survivors to reach out to the American Cancer Society and the help it has to offer, but agreed that as far as support goes, the relay was irreplaceable.
“It would be difficult to think about not doing it,” Bott said.