Winnipeg Relay For Life 2012

25 May 2012

Winnipeg, Manitoba -

Jay MacLeod has spent the better part of his young life looking for that perfect match.

He found it when he met and married the love of his life Eileen. But within 13 months of tying the knot, he was forced to begin another hunt – this time for a bone marrow donor and a way to beat cancer – when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia – a form of cancer that starts from the very early form of white blood cells in the bone marrow and progresses quickly to other parts of the body.

When the search failed, Jay turned to research and cutting edge work being done at the Fred Hutchinson Research Centre in Seattle where they tried a procedure that used his own bone marrow. For four months Jay battled for his life while Eileen looked after him.

After being given less than 50/50 odds of surviving, Jay and Eileen returned to Winnipeg – leaving the hospital and leukemia behind. That was 25 years ago. Tonight, the two will celebrate along with more than 1,000 other Manitobans at the Winnipeg Relay For Life event at Shaw Park, Home of the Winnipeg Goldeyes. The two will open the event as the 2012 Honourary Survivor and Caregiver.

“I always knew that I had people behind me, fighting for me and with me,’’ Jay says. “I Relay to celebrate my own victory, to pay tribute to Eileen and the thousands of Manitoba care-givers who give so much to the fight against cancer but most of all, I do it to show others fighting right now that WE CAN BEAT CANCER.

“This is not the time to give up but push on and do more because every day we are making progress against this disease that kills more Manitobans than anything else.”

It will be Jay and Eileen’s 10th Relay For Life. The two of them know this marquee 12-hour event for the Canadian Cancer Society from three different perspectives. Eileen knows the challenges of being a primary caregiver to a loved one with cancer. In addition to being a cancer survivor, Jay has also been a photographer at the event for the past decade capturing the emotion, the fun and the celebration of the fight against cancer.

For the first time this year, caregivers will walk with survivors during the opening Victory Lap. Caregivers will walk on the left side of survivors – closest to their hearts. More than 200 survivors are expected to join the Winnipeg Relay For Life.

“We are a team and so it is fitting that survivors and caregivers walk together,” says Eileen. “I am really proud to represent all these thousands of caregivers who join the fight against cancer willingly. Our strength and determination to beat this disease is fuelled by our love and nothing is stronger than that.”

The 12-hour Relay celebrates the thousands of Manitobans currently on a cancer journey and those who are no longer with us. Winnipeg is one of 12 Manitoba communities hosting Relay events this summer. They also take place in Steinbach, Brandon, Thompson, Dauphin, Lac du Bonnet, Churchill, the International Peace Gardens, Miniota, OCN/The Pas, Russell and Souris.

Money raised through Relay For Life funds the most promising cancer research, providing programs and services that support Manitobans living with cancer as well as programs to bring about change to reduce incidents of cancer and improve support for cancer patients.

Winnipeg Relay co-chair Barb Dolski,  said Relay For Life can be life changing not only for survivors but also for those touched by cancer because it celebrates people’s fight, lifts the spirit and gives everyone new hope and inspiration to continue the fight against cancer. “It’s a night you’ll never forget and one that makes a tremendous impact,” she says. “Relay For Life is a unique event because it is a 12-hour effort against ALL more than 200 forms of cancer.

“We’re there to support one another and we are all united in the fight against cancer.”

The event’s other co-chair Brent Kellett said Relay can bring out the very best in people. Tonight, for example, one participant will go to the extreme step of shaving off her shoulder-length hair after sponsors pledged more than $2,000 to support her.

“Everyone is touched by Cancer, said Laura Galka. “This is my fifth Relay and I wanted it to be different and more memorable than ever before. “I Relay because I believe that we all deserve to know what it feels like to live without cancer.
Galka will have the support of her teammates The Cure-ious Cats when she shaves her head at 7:30 on the Main Stage!

On Friday, May 25, 2012 at Shaw Park, Jay and Eileen MacLeod will join hundreds of other cancer survivors, caregivers and participants in the Canadian Cancer Society’s Winnipeg Relay For Life.  Jay will be available for interviews by appointment during the afternoon or between 5:15 and 6:15pm at the Survivor Tent.  The opening ceremony is at the Main Stage at 6:30 p.m. followed by the first lap walked by over 200 survivors at 7:00pm. The Galka head-shave will take place at 7:30 on the main stage.

About Relay For Life

Relay For Life is an overnight, non-competitive event that involves teams of participants who take turns walking or running around a track. The event opens with the Survivors’ Victory Lap, where cancer survivors identified with yellow shirts kick-off the event by walking an inspirational first lap.  Luminaries are lit during a moving ceremony at dusk. Their light pays tribute to loved ones and provides motivation and encouragement to participants all night long.  Luminaries can be purchased by anyone whether they are attending the event or not, at relayforlife.ca.

Last year, communities across the country made history at Relay For Life:

  • Over 17,265 teams raised $51 million
  • Relay For Life took place in 496 communities across Canada
  • Nearly 200,000 Canadians participated.
  • More than 37,000 celebrated survival at Relay
  • 32,000 volunteers made it happen!

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

Jason Permanand

Communications Manager

Canadian Cancer Society

Manitoba

Phone: 204-990-4310