The Champion Relay for Life is the state's largest, with 15,000 participants and a fund-raising total of more than $500,000 this year.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CHAMPION -- For cancer survivors, participating in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life is a celebration of their victory over the disease.
"I'm thankful because I lived to see this day that I would walk as a survivor," said Patricia Canter of Cortland, who was first diagnosed with lymphoma in 1983 and was cured by a bone marrow transplant in 1989.
Canter, who marched Friday with the survivors' group at the beginning of the relay, works part-time cleaning offices and enjoys crocheting and gardening in her spare time.
After she suffered from a large inoperable tumor in her back, some of her bone marrow was removed and frozen.
She then underwent total-body radiation and chemotherapy of such high intensity that it killed all her remaining bone marrow, then received her own stored bone marrow back, she said.
"I pray for the people that have to go through this. I know what they're going through. If they ever go though a bone marrow transplant, they have hope that they will survive. It's rough, but it might save their lives," she said.
Another survivor: Robert Ellwood, 74, of Niles, is a retired steel worker. He underwent removal of his bladder three years ago because of cancer. No cancer has been detected in him since then.
"Most of the time, they'll say five years. If you get through the five years, you're in pretty good shape. I've got two more to go yet. Hopefully, nothing happens," he added.
Ellwood, who marched in the survivors' group and said he planned to walk at least a mile in the relay, leads an active life, appearing dressed as a leprechaun in the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boardman and collecting football cards.
He emphasized the importance of early diagnosis and treatment for long-term cancer survival.
He was one of about 1,000 cancer survivors who released helium-filled balloons at the start of the event and walked the first lap in Ohio's largest Relay for Life at the Kent State University Trumbull Campus.
Number of teams: About 120 teams representing schools, companies and institutions, and typically consisting of between 10 and 15 members each, were to participate in the 24-hour event, which ends at 6 p.m. today.
It was expected to draw 15,000 people.
Each team has a fund-raising minimum of $1,000 and keeps at least one of its members walking on the track at all times during the event. Teams average $2,000 each. Walkers typically are asked to raise $100 each in donations.
Kenneth M. Miller, vice president for purchasing at Trumbull Industries in Warren and relay public relations chairman, said he expected the walk to raise more than $500,000 this year.
Simultaneous relays for life are scheduled this weekend at Boardman Center Middle School Stadium and at Firestone Park in Columbiana.
The last in this year's series of relays in the region will be June 8 and 9 in East Liverpool.