Nelson’s breast cancer support group gets ready for Relay For Life. Back row from left: Tania O’Donnell, Ngaire Pannell, Andrea Kepes and Erina Park. Front row: Cancer Society Nelson manager Michelle Hunt with Sally MacDonald. Photo: Kate Russell.

Cancer survivors rally for relay

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A group of women who have been through the ups and downs of cancer are now banding together to help support others with the disease.

On March 17, the Nelson breast cancer support group will take to Trafalgar Park for Relay For Life – the Cancer Society’s biennial fundraiser.

Group member and breast cancer survivor Ngaire Pannel says the group meets every six weeks at the Cancer Society rooms on Hardy St.

“It’s very sociable and supportive. Around 10 to 20 women come along and for the new ones it’s really good having someone to talk to who has been through it. They come at all stages of treatment.”

Ngaire is no stranger to the event, having participated before and says it’s a way for her to “give back”.

“I don’t think that until you go through it yourself, you don’t realise how much is done for you.”

“I’m six or seven years down the track and I still get support, so it’s like a security blanket – because if the cancer comes back, you need that ongoing support.”

This year marks Nelson’s eighth relay and Cancer Society Nelson manager Michelle Hunt says the event is a time to celebrate and commemorate those who have lived with cancer.

“For us, it’s twice as big as Daffodil Day and generates one third of our funding,” she says.

It’s also the first year it will be held at Trafalgar Park instead of the usual Saxton Field location. “It will be easier, with more facilities – everything is there, and it’s more accessible and family-friendly,” says Michelle.

“We are also hoping that by having it in the city, we’ll get more people coming down to check it out. The public can come down for lunch or dinner and there will be lots of live entertainment.”

In 2016 the event raised $260,000 with 107 teams and over 1,000 people participating – their biggest effort yet.

This year’s event runs from 10am – 10pm, beginning with a survivors’ lap.

The public can also show their support by leaving messages during the candlelight ceremony at 9pm, and candle bags will be for sale beforehand or on the day.

“Reading all the messages that people leave makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up,” says Ngaire.

“The camaraderie of the event is great – there’s hardly a family out there that hasn’t been affected by cancer.”

Relay for Life is for all ages and fitness levels, registration is $20 and corporate teams are welcome to enter.

To register a team or for more information on Cancer Society Nelson’s services go to www.cancernelson.org.nz or call (03) 539 1137.

To make an online donation, go to www.everydayhero.co.nz/event/relay-for-life-nelson