Hants West Relay For Life nets $66,000 and counting

Ashley Thompson athompson@hantsjournal.ca
Published on June 20, 2014
Relay For Life 1

Published on 20 June 2014

Pat Westlake, a survivor battling breast cancer for the third time, walks the survivors’ lap during the 2014 Hants West Relay For Life. She finished her final round of chemotherapy the same day as the 12 hour fundraiser. 

Photos by Ashley Thompson

Relay For Life 2

Published on 20 June 2014

<p>Cancer survivors complete the first lap at the 2014 Hants West Relay For Life.&nbsp;</p>

Photos by Ashley Thompson

Relay For Life 3

Published on 20 June 2014

<p>Cancer survivors complete the first lap at the 2014 Hants West Relay For Life.&nbsp;</p>

Photos by Ashley Thompson

Relay For Life 4

Published on 20 June 2014

<p>The Lodgers, a team from Dykeland Lodge, cheers on the survivors at the 2014 Hants West Relay For Life.&nbsp;</p>

Photos by Ashley Thompson

Relay For Life 5

Published on 20 June 2014

<p>Survivors participating in the 2014 Hants West Relay For Life release balloons into the air.</p>

Photos by Ashley Thompson

Relay For Life 6

Published on 20 June 2014

<p>Cancer survivors watch as balloons they released at the 2014 Hants West Relay For Life soar out of sight.</p>

Photos by Ashley Thompson

Relay For Life 7

Published on 20 June 2014

<p>Pat Westlake, a survivor battling breast cancer for the third time, earns the crowd’s undivided attention at the 2014 Hants West Relay For Life with a motivational speech.&nbsp;</p>

Photos by Ashley Thompson

Relay For Life 8

Published on 20 June 2014

A tribute was posted for Pat Westlake, a survivor battling breast cancer for the third time, who finished her final round of chemo that same day as the 2014 Hants West Relay For Life.

Photos by Ashley Thompson

Relay For Life 9

Published on 20 June 2014

<p>Taylor Wile, 10, lights a luminary during the 2014 Relay For Life event in Windsor.</p>

Photos by Laura Hines

Relay For Life 10

Published on 20 June 2014

<p>Cameron Hines participated in the hula-hoop challenge during the 2014 Relay For Life event in Windsor.</p>

Photos by Laura Hines

Relay For Life 11

Published on 20 June 2014

<p>Hants West Relay For Life committee members danced to Pharell's Happy as the 12-event took place in Windsor.&nbsp;</p>

Photos by Laura Hines

Why do thousands of Nova Scotians relay each year? They do it for people like Pat Westlake.

The 2014 Hants West Relay For Life, held June 13 at the exhibition grounds in Windsor, fell on a special day for Westlake. She finished her last round of chemotherapy just hours before taking the stage to share a motivational speech at the relay.

“I tell ya, chemo is not for sissies. In a day or so the side effects will kick in and I’ll go in hiding for about eight to 10 days. After that, just five short weeks of radiation and I’ll be as good as new and good to go,” a cheery Westlake vowed, addressing a sea of spectators donning the bright yellow survivor t-shirts.

Relay For Life fundraisers encourage those touched by cancer to celebrate, remember and fight back.

Westlake, a Centre Burlington resident, is battling breast cancer for the third time. Obviously, cancer has its downfalls and she’s well aware of the downsides of living with the merciless disease.

But she’s not about to let cancer get her down — no matter how often it comes knocking on her door.

“Despite the ugly reality of cancer again, I had to make a choice: lay on the couch and feel sorry for myself or pray and be positive.”

Westlake, a volunteer with the local Relay For Life organizing committee, started canvassing to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society after her first diagnosis in 2000. She also joined the Breast Quest Dragon Boat team in Windsor and started paddling alongside fellow breast cancer survivors.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation we are challenged to change ourselves,” she said.

Westlake lost her hair during treatments, endured a lumpectomy and underwent mastectomies, but she refuses to focus on the negative aspects of living with cancer. She won’t let the disease claim her sunny disposition, either.

“I even convinced myself that cancer wasn’t all that bad. It has its perks: friends bring in meals, several friends offered to do housework, laundry et cetera, the neighbour is cutting the grass and I’m being driven to my appointments,” she joked.

“Life is good.”

Westlake, who turns to her relatives, peers and her church family for support, admits she would give up cancer in a heartbeat. However, she’ll always cherish the everlasting friendships she’s formed since the day cancer first picked a fight with her.

“Never, ever give up hope, ” she said, in closing. “God bless you.”

The Hants West Relay For Life raised more than $66,000 as of June 18, with more donations coming in. The event, featuring a 12-hour overnight walking relay, attracted 90 survivors, 29 teams and 251 participants. The Atlantic Superstore Bandits won the title of top fundraisers, raising $10,331.

Shawna Singleton, co-chairperson of the Hants West relay’s organizing committee, listed the survivor lap, survivors’ balloon release and lighting of the luminaries as highlights from the evening.

“With the forecast of rain for the night, we moved the event inside the Industrial Building (at the Hants Exhibition grounds),” said Singleton. “This change brought a new energy to the event and was well received. It was certainly appreciated at 5 a.m. when it poured.”

The committee is accepting new members to help with the 2015 relay.

Money collected at Relay For Life fundraisers helps the Canadian Cancer Society fulfill its mandate. Last year, 16,224 teams across Canada raised $46.5 million.