Valley's first Relay For Life raises funds for cancer fight

April 20, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

Fighting cancer is not easy.

Losing the fight means death.

The American Cancer Society has dedicated itself to helping individuals in the fight against cancer.

On Friday the society took another big step to aid in the fight for Imperial Valley residents.

The first Relay For Life in the Imperial Valley started at noon Friday and is continuing this morning on the running track at Southwest High School in El Centro.

"This is just the first of many times," said Linda Shaner, relay organizer.

The event has been going at spots around the nation since 1985.

She said the Relay For Life is replacing the Making Strides and Jail-A-Thon fund raisers.

For Maria Islas of El Centro, participating in the relay is her way of paying back for all the help she received from the society.


"They have supported me and I wanted to help others who are in worse condition. They've helped me a lot with my depression," she said.

Islas was diagnosed with breast cancer and has undergone five surgeries.

She will start radiation therapy soon and has an 85 percent chance of beating the cancer.

"I use to work a lot, then I couldn't. I didn't want to accept it but with God's help I found the strength to fight it," she said.

"Try your best and remember that your not alone. There's many others who are also going through the same thing," she said of the fight against cancer.

Islas is part of Survivors of the Outback teams I and II. Each team participating was encouraged to choose a country and name itself after something significant from the country.

Donna Fischer of El Centro is captain of the Survivors team.

She explained the team is made up of cancer survivors from the entire Valley, so the members call themselves Survivors and associated the name with the television series "Survivor."

Since the maximum membership a team may have is 15, two teams of Survivors were created. Each team has the maximum-allowed number of members.

Fischer fought breast cancer 10 years ago and won.

Since then she has volunteered at the Cancer Society.

"There is life after cancer," she said.

"We still buy green bananas," she said.

The saying means survivors buy green bananas because they'll still be alive when they ripen and are ready to be eaten.

"We hope to raise money for patient survivors and raise awareness in the community," she added.

Jose Gonzales of El Centro is a cancer survivor and a member of the Survivors team.

"We share the same experience and we support each other," said Gonzalez.

"They helped me when I got out of the hospital and I try to give some back," he added.

Gonzalez was diagnosed with leukemia and had a bone marrow transplant in 1995.

Shaner said 46 teams were registered and about $40,000 had been raised as of late afternoon Friday, but organizers hope the amount will grow as the relay continues.

Numerous volunteers gave Shaner and her crew a hand to ensure the event ran smoothly.

El Centro Regional Medical Center was one of many local businesses, banks, credit unions and agencies that participated in the relay.

Their team's name was the Hot Tamales.

The captain was Virgie Galindo, the hospital's chief nursing officer.

"We have always supported the Cancer Society," she said.

"Cancer affects a lot of people, both young and older, and I think it's good for a first time. I hope there will be more people," she said.

David Selman, the hospital's chief executive officer, kicked off the team's relay.

The hospital's diabetes center was at the relay giving free blood-sugar testing to anyone.

Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3435.

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