Teaming up to fight cancer

First in a series

MARYSVILLE – Linda Clark’s dad and brother died of cancer within a few months of each other.

“It was devastating and quite frankly I was angry,” she said.

Cassie Golden had similar feelings when she found out her sister had cancer.

“It was earth shattering,” she said, adding her dad died of cancer in 1987, and her mom had battled it, but her sister was just a few years older than her. “I panicked,” she said. “I had to do something.”

Both have become involved in leading Relay For Life teams that raise funds for cancer research. Clark has been involved for 12 years and Golden 10. The teams are made up of family and friends.

“Once you get started – you fall in love with the people,” Clark said. “The idea that together we are making a difference” is what keeps them going. Along with the “survival stories, and the news of better treatment and cures.”

She got involved with Relay For Life about a year after her brother and dad died.

“I stopped by a friend’s … and right there on the front page was an article in the Marysville Globe about Relay. I signed up that day.” Golden’s team is named “Auntie’s Angels and a Few Uncles, too.” It started out as “Pennie’s Aunties” after her sister who was diagnosed. The second year another team started, called “Cathy’s Cruisers” after a sister-in-law who was diagnosed. Both are now cancer-free and often participate in the event, coming up from Portland, OR and the Tri-Cities.

“We pull the family from all corners, and we spend the whole weekend kicking the stuff to the curb,” she said of cancer.

Every year it seems like they walk for someone new afflicted with cancer. “It’s a constant battle,” she said, adding they always hope the next year there will be someone “not in our family or in our world who we can dedicate our laps to.”

She said this year one of their team members is losing a battle to cancer.

“They’re not going to win this one, but they’re not going down without a fight,” Golden said, adding the goal is for that person to take one lap this year.

Clark admits it can be sad. “You can get burned out. Some need to take a break,” she said.

But the majority of time participants feel positive about the support they get.

“They have recently lost a loved one or know someone themselves or they themself had been diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “They needed something to do with those feelings… something good.”

Golden agreed. “They know exactly what you’re going through,” she said, adding that camaraderie is encouraging. Clark’s team is called “Kickin’ It For Cancer.” They raise about $10,000 a year, as does Golden’s team. To raise money they do a garage sale, an auction and breakfasts at Applebee’s and dinner at La Hacienda. The rest they get by asking people for donations. “Everyone is affected by cancer. We all are hoping for a cure. And we see all the good things that are coming out of the work we do.”

Golden said it doesn’t matter how much people give. “Every dollar makes us successful,” she said. “I will take your pennies. Pennie is the most important person on earth,” she said of her sister.

Golden said people should save their change. She said a coffee can of pennies is $100. Also, a 20-ounce water bottle of dimes is $100. “You don’t have to write a big check,” she said.

Golden said participation in Relay For Life has dwindled over the years, but she hopes people come back and support it this year and from now on.

“I would love to see those tracks nice and full,” she said.

She said participating in the event, even if you stay all night like her team does, is nothing compared with what people with cancer go through.

“You can sacrifice one night of your life,” she said.

Event organizers make it fun so something is always going on.

Golden said the luminary ceremony is always emotional for her. “For me it’s the most moving thing I’ve ever participated in,” she said, adding as she walks she sees names of people she knew.

“Everybody there is touched some way, somehow,” she said. It reminds participants that: “They never gave up. They fought until their last breath. I need to keep going.”

She said she lost her dad when she was in her early 20s. Now she has grandkids, and she doesn’t want them to have to deal with cancer. Thanks to advances in oncology, she’s still able to have Sisters Weekends, and “I want more of them.”

So, Golden plans to keep supporting the cause. “I can’t sit by and watch cancer take another person from me,” she said. “We’ve gotta find a way to stop it.”

At a glance

This year’s North Snohomish County Relay for Life will be at Asbury Field in Marysville July 20 starting at noon.

To find out how to get a team together contact Katie Tormohlen at 425-404-2231 or email Katie.Tormohlen@cancer.org.

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