Relay for Life Kickoff, Oct. 25

Get the tools you’ll need to put your team together, register your team if you have your $100 registration fee, and learn from others who have participated in Relay for Life at the SF Relay for Life Kick-Off, 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25 in S-326/327.

Relay for Life is a life-changing event to help raise funds for cancer research and support services, get inspired by the stories of our cancer survivors, remember those we have lost, and learn more about cancer and what the American Cancer Society is doing to fight back. The Relay for Life event will take place at the SF track on April 15-16, 2011.

Contact: Barbara LIttle-Harsh.

Relay for Life website

A Cancer Caregiver’s Story, by Barbara Little-Harsh

Barbara Little-Harsh serves Santa Fe as a Perkins Grant Program Specialist in Workforce Development.

The year 2000 was a great year for me. I graduated from the University of Tampa with a bacelor’s degree in environmental science, took a 10-day study abroad trip to Costa Rica (a dream come true) — the day after graduation!, and in November finally got a decent job working at SF as a Tempforce Employee. In April 2001, I started as a full-time employee. It was thrilling to finally have that full-time job with benefits.

Soon after, however, I got the news that my father had been diagnosed with mesothelioma, better known as asbestos poisoning. I hadn’t been all that close to my dad, since he lived in Pennsylvania most of my life and we weren’t on the best of terms, but the news struck me really hard. My father and I were just getting to know each other and now I was going to lose him. His doctors removed a football-sized tumor from his stomach and he started treatments, but nothing was helping. In November 2001, I went to visit my father to say goodbye. On Dec. 15, only a month later, my father passed away. Christmas was never the same after that, and 2001 was the worst year of my life. Several years followed where depression was just part of the norm for me.

In 2004, Byron Dyce put out a request for SF faculty, staff, and students to join his Relay for Life team. I didn’t know about Relay for Life, but it sounded like fun, so I told him I would come out and participate. I had to go out of town for a conference, so I showed up Saturday morning to walk a few laps in memory of my dad. As I got to the track, Byron was finishing his overnight marathon run. And as I began to walk around the track for the first time, my mom came walking towards me. It was a complete surprise as she had moved back to Pennsylvania the year before. She was there to surprise me with a week-long stay to celebrate my birthday. My mom and I walked the track a few times together … and from that moment on, Relay for Life was engrained in every aspect of my being.

The next year, I got more involved, helping to plan events with Byron and the rest of our team. I stayed at Relay for Life the entire night and by doing so found that even though the event is full of fun activities, I had a touch of understanding of what my dad went through on those really hard, sleepless nights. This inspired me to get further involved. I decided to join the 2006 planning committee, and have been a member ever since. Also in 2006 I formed my own team, and have been a team captain ever since. My fellow Relay for Lifers know me as the lady in the crazy purple wig and who is almost always wearing purple during Relay season.

Cancer continues to be a part of my everyday life. Not only have I been touched by everyone I work with at the American Cancer Society, but there have been so many friends and co-workers at SF whom we have lost or who are fighting cancer to this day.

I may not know what it is like to be a cancer patient, but I fight year round for them. I want to make a difference for them and for their family and friends who are there to support them. Cancer has affected every single person in my life in some way or another.

Last year was a very special year for me in many ways (unlike 2001). We celebrated our wedding a few days prior to the anniversary of my dad’s passing -– giving new light to that time of the year. The 2010 Relay was held on my birthday – something I will never take for granted! My mom again came down from Pennsylvania to be a part of our team and walked with me all night long and my new husband also came out that night and walked with me in celebration! We walked in memory of my dad, but we also walked in honor of my sister-in-law who had just recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is now cancer free!