Thousands of steps to help beat back cancer
Some walked because they won, some walked because they lost, some walked because they battled and some hoped they would not be next, but each of them thought about the same thing — cancer.
Survivors were joined by their friends and families as they took to the track at the National Sports Centre for the sixth year of Relay for Life in Bermuda.
The 24-hour event closed at 6.30pm on Saturday after teams notched up thousands of steps at the North Field and enjoyed the camaraderie provided by stallholders as well as entertainment.
Paulette Smith, from Devonshire, had multiple myeloma — a type of bone marrow cancer — diagnosed in 2017. She said: “Mine is actually smothering my liver, which means that it's like a volcano, it hasn't erupted.”
The 62-year-old Bermuda Hospitals Board worker explained that she received blood check-ups every three months and a full-body skeleton x-ray each year to check her condition.
Ms Smith, a mother to Anthony, 43, and Loukeisha, 41, knew of two people who died from the same type of the disease and said: “It is kind of scary.”
She added: “I just deal with it. My family supports me but they're not overbearing.”
Ms Smith gathered a team for this year's event after she participated on her own in 2018 and she was joined on Saturday by Melissa Lindo.
The 42-year-old, also of Devonshire, said: “Everybody here has something in common, everybody knows somebody who has been affected by cancer.
“Cancer has no face, it doesn't discriminate, it affects us all.”
Damina Caisey, from Pembroke, remembered her sister Tillie Maria Caisey, who died last August after her battle with cancer.
The 47-year-old cook explained: “She found out three years before that. It was sad but Maria's spirit was very high, she was the same every day.
“She was a person who never worried about herself, she was more concerned about others.”
Ms Caisey's best friend, Josette Grant, 51, said the Relay for Life helped to raise awareness.
She added: “As much as you think you know about cancer you could still be learning a bit more.”
Gladys Burchall, of St George's, proudly wore a T-shirt with the images of her two sons and told how one had received a transplant of bone marrow from the other.
The younger of the brothers, Cavon Spencer, had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosed nine years ago, when he was 22.
He went through stem cell treatment which was unsuccessful and Ms Burchall said the transplant was “his last resort”.
Her older son, Raymond Spencer, 43, provided the bone marrow for the procedure that was carried out in April 2014.
Cavon, now 30, was dressed as the Incredible Hulk at the fundraising event and collected cash for the charity by charging people a small fee to take photographs with him. Ms Burchall added: “We rejoice every day.”
About 120 teams of up to 12 people were expected to participate in the 24-hour Relay for Life.
One member of each group was always on the track to represent the idea that “cancer never sleeps, so for one night, we won't either”.
Deborah Titterton Narraway, the Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre's chief marketing officer, described the atmosphere of the event on Friday as “phenomenal” as the opening survivors' lap was followed by a team parade.
Speaking on behalf of the volunteer Relay for Life event, she added: “It was a sea of colours and energy, the vibe was just powerful.”
Ms Titterton Narraway explained that between one-in-two and one-in-three people were directly affected by cancer in their lifetime.
She said: “There are many people out there doing it for a personal reason, there are probably many people out there doing it because it's not them ... some said, ‘I'm here because it's not going to be me'.”
Ms Titterton Narraway said the BCHC was looking beyond its screening and treatment services.
She explained: “We are in the very early stages of pulling together the right people to begin working on a national cancer plan and the focus there is really on prevention.”
Eating healthily, regular exercise, reducing alcohol intake, not smoking, taking care in the sun and seeking professional medical advice about screening and vaccinations were all ways to help reduce the risk, she said.