Relay For Life 2013 and why I’m involved

Adrian Sarracini, a 21-year-old York Region resident, was diagnosed with and treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was 17 years old. Now, cancer-free for the last three years, he said his struggle with the disease has made him stronger.

“The entire process changed my life,” he said. “My life was put on hold and, to this day, I’m happy that I went through that terrible illness because the values and lessons I learned in that period stuck with me to this day and will be with me for my entire life.”

Cancer survivor Adrian Sarracini recounts his story at the March 7 kick-off for Richmond Hill’s Relay For Life at Lone Star Texas Grill.

Sarracini shared his story to crowds as he helped kick off the three York Region events for the Canadian Cancer Society’s (CCS) annual fundraiser, Relay For Life – one in Richmond Hill, one in Markham and one in Vaughan.

His story began in February 2009 with the discovery of four lumps under his arm. After an open biopsy a few months later, he was able to get a proper diagnosis.

“Once the healing process was over and the results were in, the surgeon called us into his office and explained what I had,” he recalled. “The surgeon said I have four nodes, all which ranged from the size of a golf ball to a tennis ball. They split each node into four pieces and sent them off to different labs and the results are unanimous, you have Hodgkin’s lymphoma.’”

“The pain I felt that day was like no other. Being 17 years old and being told you have cancer is like being sentenced to death.”

After six months of chemotherapy, Sarracini beat the disease. Now, four years later, he gets up on stage to share his story with countless others.

In addition to Sarracini, 500 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer every day, notes the CCS.

On a personal note, I have lost several family members to the disease, including my grandmother, which prompted me to get involved as the Marketing and Communications Chair (and participant) for Richmond Hill’s Relay For Life. From 7pm to 7am, teams of 10 to 15 cancer fighters take turns walking, running or strolling around a track. At dusk, a luminary ceremony takes place, where candles are lit around the track to honour those lost to and touched by cancer.

Last year, Relay For Life occurred in 596 communities across Canada. About 200,00 Canadians participated, raising about $51 million to ensure no one is facing cancer alone and to fund life-saving cancer research.

And there have been results. In the 1940s, only 25 per cent of those diagnosed with cancer survived, according to the CCS. Now, 62 per cent of them are surviving, including Sarracini.

“Generosity and kindness saved my life, and I know that it will save millions of other lives,” he said.

If you’re interested in joining a team, making a donation, buying a luminary or volunteering for Relay For Life in your own region, visit relayforlife.ca.

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