The collection of eight teams started setting up for the 24-hour walk prior to the opening ceremonies which started to bring a few of the spectators to tears. The invocation by Pastor Myron Ness of the South Beach Christian Center set the initial tone for the event but it was the words from Shilo Long that really pulled at the heartstrings during the opening ceremonies.
“I am a two time cancer survivor,” stated Long, “I first had cancer when I was 12-years-old, and again when I was 34.”
And today, Long is cancer free after surgeries and radiation. But her story was not over, Long and her family have dealt with cancer their entire lives.
“Eight years ago I lost my dear husband to cancer. He was very sick for three months and didn’t know that he had cancer until after he passed. And just a short month ago, I lost my father-in-law to cancer.”
One would think that Long and suffered enough with the passing of her spouse, her father-in-law, and her own battles, but another who was to join her this year was unable to make it.
“My dad, who was not able to join us this year, is still fighting hard to beat this horrible disease.”
Long’s story is like many who deal with cancer, the loss of loved ones, the fight against something that we still do not fully understand. Standing beside her as she related her story to the assembled crowd, her daughter Loren, also wanted to add a few words. Unable to bring herself to speak in front of the crowd, mother Shilo read from a prepared speech.
“My story stars at the age of six,” Shilo read Loren’s words, “It all started when I asked my mom why her head wasn’t the same as everybody else. She told me that she had gotten cancer and had surgeries.”
For Loren, it has been an emotional roller coaster during her first 18 years of life as she saw her mother, her father, her grandfather, an uncle and friends having to deal with cancer.
“Not only was I scared for her, but I was scared for myself. Scared that I would never see her again. As you can see, she made it…undefeated.”
Some of the people in Loren’s life had made it through and some did not. Like so many of the people at the Relay for Life, they have had family or friends dealing with similar problems.
At the conclusion of the emotional speeches, Survivors took the inaugural lap to start the 24-hour relay. And at the end of their first lap, family members and friends presented a Survival Medal as they crossed the line.
This year the Willapa Bay Relay for Life was able to generate $36,000 toward the total fundraising fore the year.