By LISA MARIE DAHM
North Hawaii News
When Sandralene “Sandy” Pang started volunteering for the Relay for Life six years ago, she hadn’t considered herself a cancer survivor. She and her husband, Everett, were just answering a call to help a friend with the American Cancer Society’s all night fundraising event.
But in 1999, Sandy had battled papillary carcinoma, a thyroid cancer.
“I had no symptoms,” Sandy said. “I thought I was coming down with a cold.”
She said her general practitioner detected an abnormal lump when checking her thyroid. After a biopsy, they found the malignancy and removed her thyroid. She had no radiation or chemotherapy, but had radioactive iodine therapy – a common treatment for her type of thyroid cancer.
Though she could only talk in a whisper at first, she is has now recovered and only has to go for routine checkups.
“It’s a good thing that took care of it right away,” Sandy said.
The couple said they hadn’t heard about the Relay for Life until they moved to Waimea full time and were invited to help with the survivor dinner. They have since volunteered every year and they said they plan to continue serving at the event, which they feel helps the community and supports a good cause.
The Relay for Life is a national event by the American Cancer Society where teams members take turns walking all night around a track or a field. At least one team member is always walking the route to honor people affected by cancer – either to celebrate cancer survivors, to support friends and family now battling cancer or in memory of those who have died of the disease. Sometimes, a local company will form a team to support the cause.
This year, the Relay for Life Waimea opening ceremonies are at 6 p.m., on April 28, at the Waimea Community Park.
The Pangs help with a dinner before the 24-hour walk and are in charge of the Relay for Life Survivor Luncheon, which this year was at Anna Ranch on April 1, and attended by about 50 people. The couple said they enjoy organizing the luncheon because they like helping people to “interact and make friends.”
Sandy said she enjoys volunteering at the Relay for Life because she likes “meeting other survivors and hearing their stories.”
Everett said he wants to volunteer for the event because he knows “the money raised stays in the community.”
He said his favorite part of the event is watching the survivor’s lap, which is a celebratory walk around the field taken at the beginning of the event, by people who have survived cancer.
“After you see their faces after the first lap, it is touching,” Everett said.
Another important part of the Relay for Life is the luminaria ceremony, which recognizes people who have died of cancer. Team members carry a light around the track in honor of friends and family.
All are invited to attend the 6 p.m. opening ceremony or to show support at any time during the all-night event. The survivor’s lap is at 6:15 p.m., the luminaria ceremony is at 9 p.m. and closing ceremony is at 6 a.m. on April 29. To donate to the teams, go to the Relay for Life website at relayforlife.org.