Relay for Life

Vicky Smith
Staff Writer

The uncertain Oklahoma weather did not stop family, friends and students from rallying together at Relay for Life of Comanche County to support cancer survivors and patients.

People of all ages participated in games, stopped by food vendors and walked a track from 6-10:30 p.m. on April 21 at the Aggie Rec Center.

Teresa Fletcher, one of the event coordinators, serves as the CDI director at Southwestern Medical Center and has been a nurse for about 25 years.

The purpose of Relay for Life, Fletcher said, is to walk alongside cancer survivors and patients, as well as their family members.

“We want to honor them for all the hard work that they’ve done trying to get up every day and fight this illness,” Fletcher said. “Every day is a challenge, whether they’re a survivor, they’re in remission or they’re in the active phase. Once you’ve had that diagnosis of cancer, it’s something you face every single day.”

Working in the healthcare field, Fletcher regularly witnesses doctors who have to tell patients they have cancer.

“It’s very difficult when you come across that diagnosis, and you have to look into patients’ eyes and tell them that they have that one word that no one wants to hear,” she said. “All you can do is be supportive of your patients and hold their hands.”

Relay for Life also remains a time to comfort those whose loved ones have passed on, Fletcher said.

“Cancer is so demeaning. It’s so harsh for everyone, whether it be the patient, the family or the friends,” she said. “Unfortunately, it hits personally also, with my mother passing away with lung cancer and then my sister passing away with leukemia.”

Six months ago, 38 Relay for Life teams comprised of people from across Comanche County began publicizing the event and raising funds for the American Cancer Society.

Last year, Fletcher said, the teams and participants in Relay for Life of Comanche County raised $105,00 for the American Cancer Society, which provides resources for cancer patients and contribute funds to cancer research.

“Whenever this disease hits, you lose your hair, you lose your weight, and you lose your eyebrows,” she said. “Your whole body image changes. (The American Cancer Society tells patients) how to get their wigs, how to put their makeup on and how to do certain normal, day-to-day life events that we do that we take for granted.”

Feltcher said the society also connects patients with oncologists who provide the necessary treatments at their hospitals and clinics.

The Relay for Life team members strive to support cancer patients and research at the state and federal levels.

Currently, Fletcher and team members are pushing for a state ruling on indoor tanning devices.

The ruling would prohibit anyone under age 18, regardless of a guardian’s consent, to use an indoor tanning device.

“We’ve got kids that are 13 years old that are tanning,” Fletcher said, “and now they’re in their 40s or 50s, and they have melanoma. Cases like that are all over.”

Fletcher and team members are also writing letters to congress people, requesting that they do not advocate for the reduction of federal funds toward healthcare research.

Fletcher believes everyone in the Lawton-Fort Sill community should work with passion to successfully combat cancer.

“Cancer’s out there, and it’s going to, one day or another, affect you,” she said, “whether it be in your family, yourself, friends or someone that you know.”

“You will be involved with it,” Fletcher said, “so please … give whatever you can for the cause.”

To learn more about the risk factors for cancer, visit cancer.org.

For more information about Relay for Life, visit relayforlife.org or call (580)-595-9231.

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