“Plans are already underway for next year,” Michelle Babyak, chairman of the 2012 Relay for Life, said.
A survivor of breast cancer, Babyak was diagnosed at early Stage 4 nine years ago. “I was not expected to live. It changes your life, but it isn’t all bad. You go through a renewal of life. I now look at life differently. I have faith and belief that this is my path, and I make the most of it.”
Babyak said that the experience opened her eyes to see all that was around her, and to help others. “And that is the true meaning of life,” she said. “I live for the day, for the moment; to be able to do things like this.”
Babyak guessed that perhaps 200 of the people in attendance were cancer survivors.
One of the speakers, Lorraine Santore, told the moving story of her husband’s lost battle with leukemia. She described the time her husband was ill, and how 700 people touched their lives and eased their pain.
"Teachers took my kids to see Santa, so I could be at the hospital,” she said, adding, “Friends became family and family became friends.”
Santore’s son Geoff began to talk about cherished memories of his father, but was unable to continue.
As the family gathered, both tears and smiles evident, a speaker in the background said, “Tonight we are here to celebrate life.”
The courage, love, and respect for survivors and those who did not make it were shared through a slideshow of photos sent in by participants. In quiet reverence, the crowd watched as lost friends and beloved family members flashed upon the screen. And then, it began to rain.