15th annual Relay for Life begins Saturday at SUNY Fredonia

Cancer survivor Christine Phelka has been named the honorary chair of the 15th annual Relay for Life which begins Saturday.

Her bout with cancer came to an end March 5 as surgeons were pleased with the procedure. This weekend, Phelka will be attending her first relay for life event, supporting those who have gone through, and are currently going through cancer.

The event, at the SUNY Fredonia track facility off Brigham Road, will begin with opening ceremonies at noon followed by the survivor and caregiver laps. Forms of entertainment, including the Fredonia jazz band and Infinity will perform during the afternoon. A chicken barbecue will take place from 3 to 6 p.m.

In the evening, the Luminaria ceremony will take place to celebrate the fight against cancer with Phelka and the other survivors. Closing ceremonies will conclude the relay at 10 p.m.

“The Luminaria Cerem-ony is probably the most emotional time during Relay as we celebrate the progress we’ve made in the fight against cancer with our survivors, but also take the time to remember those that lost their battle with this terrible disease,” Kate Hinds Morrison, marketing and publicity chair of the event, said.

“The luminaria also makes beautiful photo subjects when lit.”

The fight with cancer for Phelka began when she went to the doctor at the end of June for testing. On July 5 of last year, she found out she had breast cancer.

“Once they got the results, they made an appointment with the surgeon,” Phelka said. “Then I went to the surgeon where I discussed what was going on and what my options were. He recommended that I do chemotherapy first and then we would have the surgery.”

Throughout her chemo-therapy treatment, many supported her fight with breast cancer. It was this support from the many people that made the journey an amazing one to her.

She mentioned how her husband made every single appointment possible as she went through treatment.

“My husband has made every single appointment that I have had except for two in all of these months,” Phelka said. “When he couldn’t go, I was going to go myself. But my sister said, “You’re not going anywhere by yourself, I’m going with you.” So she took time off from work to be with me.”

Phelka also noted how her three wonderful sons were right there with her all the way, making sure she was laughing. Her sister-in-law also was supportive of her as she went through chemo-therapy.

“My sister-in-law, with her sister, had breast cancer, surgery, mastectomy, and reconstruction. When I was having chemo, and I thought I could not take another treatment, and I had my head down crying, she said, “My sister was there, I know what you are going through.”

Phelka had her surgery March 5. The doctors were extremely pleased with the result as she made it through cancer-free. But even though she is free from cancer, she does not feel the true joy yet. She is currently going through radiation treatments, but the weeks of it are dwindling down.

“Every time I see a doctor I feel like I am back in the middle of it again,” Phelka said. “I’ve got two and a half weeks of radiation, and that’s going to wind up right at the anniversary where I found out I had cancer. I’m going to have a party or something at that point when the treatment is done and all of this is done. Then I can just stop with that and just celebrate.”

As she attends her first relay for life event this weekend, she will be one of the many at the event supporting the ongoing research to find a cure for cancer. The goal for this year’s relay event is to raise $127,000 in celebration of survivors, remembering the ones who lost their lives, and fighting back until the battle is won, according to Morrison.

“Cancer touches all of our lives,” said Phelka. “The fact that the cancer society is spending all this money on research is wonderful. They are finding out new things every day on what makes cancer work. I’m really glad to be a part of this due to the fact that others need help and support.”

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