Relay for Life Gives To Cancer Research

Freshman Michi Nair walked into a routine physical for soccer tryouts two years ago and walked out with the realization that her life would never be the same.

Nair discovered that she had a rare form of ovarian cancer. After four months of countless hospital visits and exhausting treatment, she stood in front of dozens of people at her first Relay for Life. It was just two weeks after her final chemotherapy treatment. She had made it -- she was a cancer survivor.

Nair has attended the Relay for Life every year since her recovery.

For the first time ever, this year's local relay, which consists of team members taking laps around a track throughout a 24-hour period, will be hosted at the University. Organized by the Campus Y, the Relay for Life will begin at 6 p.m. today on Fetzer Field.

Relay for Life is a 24-hour nationwide fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society Inc. that honors cancer victims and survivors. In the process, the event raises money for cancer research, education, advocacy and service, said senior Lindsay Anderson, one of the organizers of the relay at UNC.

"The 24 hours is meant to represent one day in the life of someone battling cancer," Anderson said.

Members of the health focus committee of the Campus Y, which is primarily responsible for organizing the relay, set a goal of raising $75,000 for ACS, Anderson said.

After an opening ceremony, the event will kick off with a speech by Jean Desaix, a UNC biology professor and cancer survivor. The relay will then begin after cancer survivors take the annual "survivor victory lap."

A member from each of the more than 80 teams registered will start off in the 24-hour relay, taking several laps before trading places with another group member. More than 1,200 people registered to participate this weekend, and they each have a personal goal of raising at least $100 before the event through whatever process they choose, Anderson said.

At 9 p.m., the stadium lights will go out and the luminary ceremony will begin as family and friends light candles in memory of cancer victims. Organizers request a donation of at least $10 for each luminary, and the name of each honoree will be read during the ceremony.

At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Thomas Farrington, author of "Battling the Killer Within," will speak about his experiences as a prostate cancer survivor.

Throughout the 24 hours of the relay, organizers will set up raffles and games. Several student groups and local bands have volunteered to perform at the event as well, including the Loreleis, Carolina Style and The Achordants.

While the entertainment will attempt to ensure that some parts of the event will have a light atmosphere, some, like Nair, have mixed feelings about the relay.

"Sometimes I'm not that excited about it because it's hard to think about," Nair said. "Everyone there has been affected by cancer, but it's important that people remember, and it's really important that I do it."


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