Cancer Survivors Celebrate Life in Seminole
By SHELLY STECK REALE, Correspondent, TB Reporter
The Central Pinellas Relay for Life, one of several scheduled annually around the Tampa Bay area, celebrates survivors, mourns those who died and acts as a fundraiser to save others.
SEMINOLE – Twenty years ago, Dawn Rawley’s diagnosis would have been a death sentence.
Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia was considered the most malignant human leukemia associated with the worst prognosis.
“About 10 years prior to my diagnosis, APL only had a 5 percent survivor rate, and the median time of survival was about two weeks; so from diagnosis to death was about two weeks,” Rawley, 35, said.
Today, it’s a different story. Collaboration, patient care, and research have changed the ending for tens of thousands who would otherwise face a hopeless fate. Instead, APL has become the most curable of acute leukemias with a 90 percent to 95 percent survival rate, according to Rawley. ( Listen to Dawn’s story in her own words.)
And on Friday (March 31), she, along with more than 225 fellow survivors of all type of cancer, volunteers, sponsors, and marchers joined together on the Seminole High School field to participate in the Relay for Life of Central Pinellas. They joined with other communities across the U.S. in what has become the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event. Rawley is a volunteer organizer of the Central Pinellas event.
The event opened with stories of hope and courage, words of inspiration, and a proclamation from Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters – read by Seminole Council Member Thom Barnhorn – declaring March 31, 2017 “American Cancer Society Relay for Life Day.”
“You guys are proof that you don’t have to wear a cape to be a hero,” Barnhorn said as survivors took to the track for a “victory lap” before being joined by members of the more than 28 teams registered to participate.
They came from Seminole, Largo, Pinellas Park, and the Gulf Beaches. Some came in costume, others clad in purple tutus; young and old, some in wheelchairs and on crutches. Others jogged and cheered out as they passed their fellow participants.
From 6:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., a member from each of the more than 28 teams took turns circling the field while their co-members set up themed campsites around the track to continue their fundraising efforts. In all, $27,977.08 was raised, according to the Relay for Life of Central Pinellas website.
As the sun set, participants lit candles in a luminaria ceremony with each candle representing of a loved one lost to cancer, to encourage those still engaged in the battle and honor those who have survived. It was a moment for survivors and those fighting the disease to have an opportunity to grieve, as well as to ignite hope, comfort, and support.
Watch Jamie Pires’ Survivor Story Below:
For information about, to volunteer, or to donate to the Relay for Life of Central Pinellas, go to main.acsevents.org.
Photos by Shelly Steck Reale, Correspondent, TB Reporter.
Relay for Life | Central Pinellas | Seminole High School | Cancer | American Cancer Society | TB Reporter
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