Annual Walk Saturday In Milford
By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
MILFORD – For two-time cancer survivor Laura Emmett, the outpouring of support she experiences at the annual Relay For Life, the American Cancer Society fundraiser, fills her with hope.
“When you’re walking the laps of the Relay’s Survivor Walk and the crowd is cheering you on, it’s just incredible,” she said, looking forward this year’s, 4-10 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at Milford’s Wilber Park. “It brings tears to my eyes.”
The value of that support cannot be measured, Emmett said. She discovered that in 2012 after her first cancer diagnosis, “Stage Zero” of breast cancer and could not find a cancer support group in Otsego County.
After Emmett underwent treatment for it in early 2013 – a double mastectomy and full hysterectomy to prevent future occurrences of cancer – she and a friend, a fellow survivor, decided to start their own support group.
Called Team Mimi – her granddaughter calls her Mimi – is for people in all stages of recover, N.E.D. (no evidence of disease), caregivers – “anyone touched by cancer.” It has 18 to 20 members.
“We talk about all the things we have to deal with,” said Emmett. “We always learn something from one another.”
Those things usually don’t happen to people never diagnosed with cancer. For instance, Emmett could not lift her arms for weeks after the double mastectomy, which meant, among other things, she could not wash her hair.
“My husband took me to a salon where I had my hair washed and blown dry,” Emmett said. “It was wonderful.”
Team Mimi helped her through her second diagnosis in 2017, a rare gynecological condition called primary peritoneal cancer, and the harsh side effects of her chemotherapy. She was frequently dizzy and depressed, her bones “ached like crazy,” and her heart raced even if she walked just a few feet.
Emmett finished chemotherapy last July and has been N.E.D. since then. But she is even more active than before in helping cancer patients and survivors. Emmett joined Relay For Life’s organizing committee, along with new chair Jennifer Mickle, and Team Mini is one of 18 groups that has raised funds for the event and will participate in it.
“I found after the first couple of months, it was just important for me to help others as it was for me to get the support,” said Emmett.
The intent of Relay For Life, she said, is to celebrate cancer survivors and remember lives. It also builds solidarity and raises money for the Cancer Society.
Begun in May 1985, until recently participants walked laps around a track for 24 hours to show that cancer doesn’t sleep. This weekend’s Otsego County Relay will go for six hours.
“We want people to enjoy the whole event,” Emmett said. “Not everyone can be there for 24 hours, so you might miss one part of the event or the activities in between. “
Team members will walk laps during the six hours; each team will have at least one member on the track at all times. Throughout the evening, there will be food, live music, motorcycle rids, and games, including one called Bra Pong. In that game, you throw a ping pong ball at bra cups on a board and try to get it a cup. There will also be fundraisers, such as bake sales, raffles, car washes, and more.
Activities for kids include the Color Run, in which kids 12 and under will walk or run on a circular course and throw colors in the air. There will also be bounce houses, face painting, the Utica Zoo Mobile, and more.
A dedicated luminaria will be along the track, decorated with the names of loved ones whose lives were touched by cancer. At dark, the luminaria will be lit.
“It’s beautiful,” said Emmett. “You don’t want to miss it.
The event concludes with fireworks.
Emmett says the funds raised at Relay for the American Cancer Society are important because the organization helps those affected by cancer in so many ways – from researching cures and better treatments to funding rides for people’s chemo appointments.
But Relay For Life’s lifting up cancer survivors and caregivers may be as important.
“It’s exhilarating,” Emmett said. “Like the end of Team Mimi meetings, you leave feeling better. Always.”