Survivors celebrate another happy birthday

Participants in Relay for Life begin to march in Fridays event.

Nicole Lamson

Participants in Relay for Life begin to march in Friday’s event.

Susie Skowronek

For cancer survivors and their families, birthdays are more than just another day on the calendar — they’re a mark of survival.

Before the relay, cancer survivors and their caregivers gathered in the Alumni House for a dinner to celebrate another year of birthdays.

“The theme that we decided to focus on this year is the theme of relay and superheroes, and we wanted to focus with the survivor banquet that you guys are the real heroes – our survivors are our heroes,” said Patricia Devine, service and survivorship committee chair for Colleges Against Cancer.

More than 70 survivors and their families attended the banquet including students, family members of students and community members.

Outback Steakhouse donated a full catered meal, and as guests ate their dinners, GV GrooVe, a co-ed a capella student singing group, performed three songs.

Cathy Bruin, a cancer survivor, addressed those gathered as they ate their meal.

“Happy Birthday,” she said to open her speech. “Celebrating birthdays – it’s important. It shows the great value that each one has. And we get to celebrate together.”

Bruin was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer, but with a sense of humor and the support of people in her church, she remained positive.

In the days before the diagnosis, she received phone calls and letters from friends. They said they were thinking of her and praying for her although she did not yet know of the trials to come.

“There was love being shown – a lot of support – even before I knew that I needed it,” she said.

She went into remission.

“Cancer is not the end,” she said. “In some circumstances, it is a new beginning.”

To wrap up the Survivor Banquet, Devine read a list of the survivors attending Relay for Life. The survivors received gifts and special purple T-shirts from Colleges Against Cancer.

“It’s just a little more of a way to give them recognition,” Devine said.

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