SUNY Fredonia students fight against cancer at annual event

The battle against cancer takes thunderous voices, unshakable courage and the endless belief in hope for a cure.

For eight years, SUNY Fredonia students have gathered in the Steele Hall Fieldhouse for the fight of a lifetime. They always make their voices heard during the Relay For Life of SUNY Fredonia, which features a speech from a cancer survivor every yearThis years’ speaker was Tanner Jubert, 22, a theater major with a minor in communications.

Jubert was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 2 years old and went into complete remission at age 6. Having been that young when he got cancer, he feels fortunate since he was too young to really understand what was happening to him.

“Some cancers are more easily beaten by the human body if you are young,” he said. “Ignorance really is bliss; it didn’t affect me that much. I was at that age when you develop your personality and sense of being when I went into remission.”

Jubert met his best friend while fighting for his life as a child.

“I had leukemia and had a 95 percent cure rate; he had a brain tumor and a less than 20 percent cure rate,” he said. “When you hear about miracles my best friend Scott is one of them.”

Jubert’s best friend survived the brain tumor and went on to live in Rochester. However, there was a scare a few years ago when the doctors found a spot on his brain.

“My heart sunk. It didn’t matter if something bad happened to me. I wasn’t afraid of what was coming,” he said. “What happened to my best friend was not something I was prepared for.”

Scott is alive and well; however, he is losing his hearing and can’t feel half of his face.

Jubert began going to a camp for children with cancer when he was 8 years old. He has been a counselor there for the past three years.

“I knew a kid there in a wheelchair who didn’t come back the next year,” he said. “My first crush Samantha didn’t come back the next year.”

Jubert believes the hard part of being 8 years old at a camp for kids with cancer is the concept that your friends might not come back.

“I watch kids at camp come through year after year with smiles that I don’t get to see anymore except through pictures,” he said. “That is the hardest thing to accept.”

“Events like these bring me hope,” he continued. “One day, hopefully we will stop another person from being taken away from us.”

Jubert wants anyone out there battling to survive cancer to consider one thing.

“I personally believe a positive attitude goes a long way; the battle is lost once you lose hope,” he said. “Never give up hope. Keep telling yourself you will beat this. It is really hard to find courage and stay in high spirits, but trust the support of your family and the medical team.”

He wants to be an actor when he graduates; Jubert believes his battle with cancer will help him become a better actor.

“I don’t want to be the next so and so. I want to be the first me,” he said. “Sometimes I feel we are losing our own individuality and people think they have to be someone else. I want to emphasize the importance of self.”

“People have a hard time accepting themselves. They want to be accepted by everyone,” he continued. “The great thing about being a human being is we don’t need to be accepted by everyone. Just because you can’t find your place now doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It will happen someday.”

He emphasized the message of not wasting second chances and taking advantage of life’s opportunities.

Chair of Relay For Life of SUNY Fredonia Amanda Sutter said the theme of this year’s event is Dr. Seuss. The event goes from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. and every cent raised goes to the America Cancer Society. There were over 460 participants and over 30 groups. The goal was to raise over $30,000.

“It is a 12-hour event,” Sutter said. “There is no sleeping. Cancer doesn’t sleep so why should we?”

Each team/group was made up of two to 50 people and they participated in games and other activities throughout the evening.

Many Relay For Life members view the luminaria as the best part of the evening.

“Anyone affected by cancer purchases a luminaria bag,” Treasurer for Relay For Life of SUNY Fredonia Brittany Gilbert said. “It is the only time it is actually quiet here. Everyone drops a white glow light into the bag in honor of someone who has died from cancer.”

A sign with the word “HOPE” slowly turns into the word “CURE” during this ceremony. It is meant to remind Relay participants and cancer survivors that as long as there is hope there will be a cure.

The Silver Team raised the most at $4,644, which is made up of the Operation Smile and Community Speech Disorder Group.

Advisor for Colleges Against Cancer Joyce Harvard-Smith wanted everyone to know the importance of the event.

“This whole thing is done by the students. This is their way of giving back and stepping outside of the classroom,” she said. “The students are making a difference in their community. They put in over a thousand hours of community service for this and spend a lot of time planning.”

The Dr. Seuss theme was inspired by the popular children’s author who died of throat cancer.

“This is our way of honoring him,” Gilbert said.

Dr. Seuss quotes were scattered around the room to help people believe in hope. There were also original Dr. Seuss-type quotes written by the students.

“Hope, that is why we are here,” American Cancer Society Specialist of Relay For Life Mike Porpiglia said. “Cure, that is what we are fighting for.”

Everyone who raised $100 got a white T-shirt that said, “Finish the Fight.” Chinese lanterns were raised in the air at 3 a.m. in remembrance of those lost and those who still fight.

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