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Community turns out to fight cancer

Led by event organizers, cancer survivors took the first lap around the track at Marysville-Pilchuck High School for this year’s Snohomish County Relay for Life. -
Led by event organizers, cancer survivors took the first lap around the track at Marysville-Pilchuck High School for this year’s Snohomish County Relay for Life.
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MARYSVILLE "When you first hear your name and the word 'cancer' in the same sentence, you feel very alone," said two-time cancer survivor Anne Hartline.

Particularly on this day, however, there was no reason for anyone affected by cancer to feel alone, whether they are busy fighting the disease themselves or supporting a family member in their struggle.

There was no official count, but despite some less than ideal weather easily several hundred participants and visitors were on hand June 7 for the American Cancer Society's Snohomish County Relay for Life. The event was held at Marysville-Pilchuck High School.

Officials said a record number of 47 teams began walking, running or just strolling around the high school's outdoor track around noon on June 7 and didn't stop until early June 8. Of course, each team had gained sponsors who made donations for every lap of the track completed.

Similar events are held are around the country, and the American Cancer Society touts Relay for Life as its biggest fundraising program.

A featured speaker for the local event, Hartline said those suffering from cancer need to make themselves part of a much larger team consisting of family, friends, doctors and other cancer patients.

Speaking after his wife, John Hartline said when his spouse first was diagnosed with cancer, the prescribed chemotherapy amounted to little more than "controlled poison," with the medications resulting in dozens of side effects. At the time, most chemotherapies were only roughly 20 percent effective, John added.

Now, just 10 years later, John contends chemotherapy treatments have far fewer side effects, can zero in on certain types of cancer and be as much as 60 percent effective in treating the disease.

"What I want you to believe is that in this century we will see cancer beaten," John said.

Among the participants in this year's Snohomish Relay, there were some predictable common threads.

"Cancer affects every family in some way," said Stella Thompson, who captained a walking team for Relay.

Kelly McGourty talked about loosing her dad and another family member to cancer. Her mom and a sister also have been diagnosed with the disease.

"We've had enough," McGourty said. She admitted the day was bittersweet, bringing up memories up those lost as well as reminding those fighting cancer of the battle they must take up.

"It's a tough day, but I don't think anyone would miss it," McGourty said, referring to her team, which consisted mostly of family and friends.

Priscilla Hahne eventually lost a grandfather to cancer. The man had been told he had six months to live, but Hahne seemed proud of the fact her grandfather lived another 12 years after receiving his diagnosis.

"I have a heart condition," Hahne added. "But it's nothing compared to what these people have gone through."

At three years of age, young Victoria Graves appeared to be the youngest cancer survivor at the Snohomish Relay. Grandmother Winnie Graves said Victoria already has been through two bouts with the disease.

"She's been fighting since she was a baby," Graves said.

For right now, Graves added Victoria was just happy about being able to avoid more "pokes" (a.k.a. "shots") and not loosing her hair, which she has done twice already.

The day started with a breakfast for cancer survivors such as Hartline and young Graves. Organizers said more than 120 people took part in that breakfast, provided courtesy of numerous local sponsors. Each survivor also received a prize bag. The survivors present launched the event by taking the first lap around the Marysville-Pilchuck track.

"Any action we can take toward finding a cure is worth it," said event participant Leslie Jackson.

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