It’s a day Dave Hesketh will never forget, the day four words changed his life.
“Sir, you have cancer.”
It was Dec. 19, 2008, just before lunch, when Hesketh heard those horrifying words from his doctor.
Ten days later he was under the knife and lost two sections of his colon.
But it was really another comment that had a lasting effect on Hesketh, one that changed his outlook as he battled the horrible disease.
“Someone asked me if I was now a semi-colon and in that I found my inspiration,” said the 52-year-old single father of three. “I had to laugh.”
Laughter has helped Hesketh every day since. Through not only the colon cancer, but the liver cancer six months later, the grueling 12 sessions of chemotherapy and the days when he worries if the cancer will come back.
It is laughter, and an infectious smile, that Hesketh also relays to others who are battling cancer.
That attitude will be shared among hundreds Saturday, June 4 as the Relay for Life gets underway at Polson Park. Hesketh is leadership chair of the event.
“Celebrating survivors is what relay is all about – every single person on our leadership committee is either a cancer survivor or has been touched by someone who has had the disease,” said event organizer Sarah Pruckl. “Their passion and energy to raise awareness and fight back is inspiring. At the event the survivors inspire us that we can make a difference, the supporting families show that no one is battling this alone.”
To date, 45 teams have signed up for the event, therefore more than 500 participants are expected to take in the festivities between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The evening begins with a celebration of people like Hesketh who have beat the odds against cancer with a survivor’s reception at 5 p.m., followed by the victory lap at 6 p.m. led by the RCMP and the Trinity Drummers.
When the sun has set, everyone will remember those they have lost with luminaries lined around the track. Luminaries are available for $5 at the Cancer Society Office at People Place or the TD Bank beside Staples. Everyone is encouraged to participate in this ceremony, and you do not need to be registered on a team to do so.
The event wraps up in the morning with closing ceremonies and a final lap with a pledge to fight back against this terrible disease.
Throughout the event, participants can look forward to 12 hours of live entertainment, prizes, team activities, challenges and more.
Dozens of prizes will be given away to those in attendance between midnight and 5 a.m.
“If you’re registered and you’re present, you have a chance to win, and a good chance,” said Hesketh, listing prizes ranging from Boston Pizza gift certificates and a camcorder from Staples to a family season ski pass at Silver Star to the top youth fundraiser and a houseboat vacation from Twin Anchors for the top team.
Traditionally the team to pull in the most money wins the grand prize, but this year a team of relay judges will be discretely taking a number of other factors into consideration.
“If you’ve got some great costumes and attitude on your team then you’ve got just as good of a chance,” said Hesketh. “It’s not just about money.”
The relay has also introduced some new challenges to the event, such as the Five Star Awards high school challenge.
Local high schools will compete for an impressive trophy they can drink from at 6 a.m. and then keep in their school all year.
“Only one high school gets to drink from this cup, make it yours,” said Hesketh.
There is also a corporate challenge amongst businesses with packages from Sun FM and The Morning Star.
Cancer survivors, family, friends, businesses and youth are encouraged to take part in the relay by registering either as a team or individual at www.relayforlife.ca or at the start of the event. You can also register by calling Pruckl at 250-307-7793.
Cancer survivors and caregivers are also being called on to register for the free survivors reception and victory lap by calling Lorraine at 250-545-1440 or 250-542-0770.