KAYSVILLE — Deb Christensen is glad for every morning that she wakes up.
She is glad to see the alarm going off and glad to start a new day.
When she was 55, Christensen was diagnosed with breast cancer and had chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
For two years, she has been cancer-free, and she celebrated last Friday at the Relay for Life in Kaysville’s Heritage Park.
Dozens of survivors joined her for the first lap and were met by caregivers half-way through. In a symbolic gesture, the caregivers then accompanied the survivors to the finish.
After their joint walk, the relay began and team members walked in turns through the night to raise money for cancer research and as a show of support to those who have fought the long battle.
“It’s really cool that everybody’s supporting us,” said Sara Tesch. The 13-year old had leukemia in preschool but is now pleased she only has to go to the doctor once a year instead of every week like she used to.
“It helps you cope with everything and makes you feel good,” said Pam Miller of the relay. She faced and fought cancer in 1993, 2003 and 2009 and still has it, she said.
“Every year you come to this and look for people you know and hope they still survive,” said Miller.
Claudia Branch has had cancer three times. Lupe Emlet had cancer in her tonsils that spread to her lymph nodes. She has been cancer-free for five years.
“This means a lot to me,” said Dawnell Briggs, who won the battle with ovarian cancer 18 years ago. “I hope all of this will one day help them find a cure.”
Some teams walked in tribute to a relative or friend who died of cancer. At 10 p.m., luminaries decorated to honor them were lit to line the path.
Similar relays take place in 20 countries throughout the world and involve millions of people each year.
The fundraisers are staged to support the American Cancer Society’s effort to “eliminate cancer as a major health threat,” according to its website. The society calls itself the “official sponsor of birthdays.”
Chris Cook, who successfully fought childhood teratoma, is hopeful.
“If they can send a robot to Mars and send back pictures, I think they can stop cancer. They just need to put money in the right places,” he said.
“Finish the fight,” was the theme printed on T-shirts this year, and many expressed that hope.
“We can beat this thing,” said Christensen.
“Everybody can take steps,” she said. “You can eat better, exercise, take care of yourself, take steps to catch it, and then you don’t have to go through what I did.”
She wants all women to get mammograms from 40 on, and others to get appropriate early detection tests or make lifestyle changes to help with prevention.
“Every little bit you can do counts,” she said.