Relay for Life: 24-hour American Cancer Society fund raiser to honor cancer survivors

February 25, 2001|By KELLY RAUSCH, Staff Writer

Lyzette Duarte knows what it is to be a survivor.

Diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a form of cancer affecting the side of her face, including her jaw, ear and eye, the cancer hadn't spread to her brain but was heading that way.

The chemotherapy and radiation treatments she underwent simultaneously in 1991 would eventually save Lyzette's life, but leave her jaw brittle. An infection set in and Lyzette's entire jaw had to be removed.

Now 17, Lyzette has had reconstructive surgery to partially repair her jaw. With still more reconstructive operations on the way, Lyzette is looking to the future.


As a junior at Southwest High School in El Centro, Lyzette is doing well in school. Though doctors warned her mother she'd be behind other kids her age, she's proven them wrong and plans to be a teacher.

It's people like Lyzette the Imperial Valley chapter of the American Cancer Society wants to honor at their Relay for Life event.

The 24-hour relay will both honor survivors and remember those who have lost the battle with cancer.

Starting at noon on April 20, teams of 10 to 15 people will set up camp on Southwest High's football field while at least one team member runs or walks on the surrounding track at all times.

About 50 teams have signed up already.

Consuelo Duarte, Lyzette's mother, said she's interested in the Relay for Life because of her personal experiences with cancer.

Lyzette's older sister died of leukemia in 1993. Consuelo's mother also had cancer.

"I've wanted an opportunity to volunteer in the past. Now I have the chance," Consuelo said in Spanish.

Organizers are seeking to make the Relay for Life an uplifting event. They'll provide entertainment such as music and dancers to keep participants going through the night. There will even be a special area for kids.

Luminarias to honor a lost loved one will be available for a minimum donation of $5 and will light up the event.

Cancer survivors will open and close the relay with their own laps around the track.

Billed as a team event to fight cancer, ACS encourages every participant to raise $100 for donation to the organization.

ACS is "not only a place for research but it also creates a support group for cancer survivors," said Joselito Villero, Relay for Life media chairman.

Talking to survivors such as Lyzette helps others to understand cancer.

Survivors' "testimonies will educate people and put a face to the disease," Villero said.

The Relay for Life will be a community effort, Villero said.

Anyone interested in forming a team or volunteering for the Relay for Life can call ACS at 352-6656 and select option three on the recording.

Staff Writer Kelly Rausch can be reached at 337-3441.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles