Stories of hope and community support were the key ingredients for today's launch of the 24-hour at
"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass," said keynote speaker Dorothy Lake of South San Francisco. "It's about learning to dance in the rain."
Lake, 73, an ovarian cancer survivor and American Cancer Society "Hero of Hope," spoke prior to the launch of the 24-hour event that raises research money for ACS. Lake, whose cancer returned this year for the fourth time since the first diagnosis in 2000, said she is keeping with her faith and positive attitude.
"I've had good doctors with me for the last 11 years, and a 'Master Physician' with me for 73 years," said Lake, who was joined by daughters Connie Martinez of Windsor and Terri Harper of Sebastopol and son Jeff Lake, the Relay's DJ.
Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire, who said he lost his grandmother to cancer and his wife Erika's aunt also had cancer, emphasized community support.
"We're here to celebrate, we're here to remember, we're here to fight back," said McGuire, a member of the Rotary Relayers team. "We're all here for a reason -- we've been touched by cancer, through a family member, or we're a survivor ourselves."
McGuire said more than 2,200 new cases of cancer a year are diagnosed in Sonoma County.
"It's a real concern," he said.
Healdsburg Vice Mayor Gary Plass, who said he was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, said he was "joining the ranks of survivors" and wearing a purple T-shirt. Plass read a proclamation issued by the Healdsburg City Council in support of Relay for Life.
After a release of doves to symbolize hope, Barbara Tuscany, Relay for Life Healdsburg's 2011 honoree, led off the survivors' lap to launch the 24-hour walk. Tuscany, riding an electric scooter chair, is recovering from a toxic reaction to the chemotherapy drugs she was administered for breast cancer.
"I can't believe how emotional this is," said Judy Edmonds of Healdsburg, smiling through tears after the survivors' lap. Edmonds, previously a volunteer and community supporter at Relay for Life, this year donned the purple T-shirt due to her cancer diagnosis in 2009.
"It's emotional because now I'm receiving the same support that I used to give," Edmonds said. "Also, I just realize that, for the past year and a half, what a journey it's been."
More than a dozen Healdsburg Relay teams have already raised more than $35,000 in contributions.