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American Red Cross Hosts Annual Breast Cancer Relay For Life

Kellie Tyndall and Paula E. Johnson, MA, Director of Clinical Services, The Arc of Ventura County

By Peggy Hunt 

Each year, more than 4 million people in over 20 countries raise much needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer through the Relay For Life movement. During a Relay event, participants and survivors celebrate what they’ve overcome.

One Ventura County Relay For Life participant, Paula E. Johnson, MA, Director of Clinical Services, The Arc of Ventura County said, “When I first found out my friend Kellie might have cancer, it can only be described as ‘waiting to exhale’. The news of cancer takes your breath away, consumes your thoughts and you forget to breathe. Every scenario plays out in your head, especially the importance of time. When you find out someone you love has cancer, you forget to exhale because you hit the floor running to help save their life.”

“After the cancer has been removed, the journey continues as you watch the person you are caring for take each breath and gain strength to complete simple tasks like showering, brushing their hair and dressing independently. Walking arm in arm with Kellie during the survival lap was my way of showing cancer it didn’t win. I was so proud of her knowing she was one month free of cancer. In a two month period she had been diagnosed, had a double mastectomy and is now walking to raise money in the fight against cancer. I was able to tell cancer you lose and another champion won. It is the least I could do to help raise money to help the next person beat cancer.”

Johnson continued, “Once you are told the cancer has been removed, you realize how important everyone has been in the journey. There are no words to express how grateful you are to the doctors, nurses, friends and family.”

Many participants who have lost their loved ones to cancer said it was their way of fighting back against the disease. The event inspires them to take action against a disease that has taken too much of them.

“I will walk again. The experience is so surreal as you watch toddlers, teenagers, adults and seniors walking. The children with hair missing but running and laughing around the track, they are happy to be alive. The parents and grandparents saying happy birthday, giving hugs to all and asking, ‘What birthday is this for you?’ You celebrate each year you are cancer free,” said Johnson. “Cancer doesn’t care what age you are; it just wants you. If each person took one day out of the year to find a Relay For Life to be a part of, I guarantee them it will change their life for good forever.”

The relay was well attended on Saturday, June 22, and held at Hueneme High School.

Cancer survivor Kellie Tyndall who participated in the walk said, “Relaying is easy for me. I’ve got great support! Relaying is also my way of sharing my personal fight with breast cancer. I believe the more we talk about and share our fight, the faster we will find a cure. I won my fight with an early detection mammogram. Don’t wait be tested; it does mean your life.”

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