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Relay for Life celebrates cancer survivors

Lynne Robinson is encouraging people to join the survivors’ lap at the start of the May 25 Relay for Life at McLeod Athletic Park.  - Natasha Jones/Langley Times
Lynne Robinson is encouraging people to join the survivors’ lap at the start of the May 25 Relay for Life at McLeod Athletic Park.
— image credit: Natasha Jones/Langley Times

Yellow is the colour of sunshine. It spells happiness and joy. Ribbons of yellow are used as a sign of hope, and to welcome home loved ones.

In some cultures, yellow is the symbol for courage and peace.

It’s a colour that Lynne Robinson wears with pride. And on May 25 she will feel particularly proud to pull on her yellow survivor’s T-shirt for the Relay for Life at McLeod Athletic Park.

“Relay for Life is a chance to give back and rejoice,” Robinson said.

“The fact that you are alive and wearing a yellow shirt is something to celebrate. It’s an opportunity to put it all aside and celebrate your victory.”

Robinson had been a member of the Relay team before she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008, and this year’s will be her third since then.

Taking part in 2010 was a blur, a bumpy ride of emotions and feelings that aren’t normally there.

“But you’re doing your best to get through the day and not dwell on challenges,” Robinson recalled.

Clarity returned last year.

“I’m so glad to be part of the Township team,” she said.

One of the most poignant moments of every Relay is the lap of honour survivors take at the beginning, when a sea of men and women and a few children, all clad in yellow shirts, walk the first lap of the Relay, accompanied by the applause and cheers of loved ones, friends and strangers.

Robinson is encouraging others who have been through the illness or are fighting it to join the survivors’ relay.

“You have this bond, this undeniable link, a shared history, and that is worth any feelings of anxiety,” she said.

For those who are reluctant, she says this: “Just be there for the lap. Let other people celebrate with you. Celebrate, remember, and fight back, and be part of that team. It’s a five minute walk. Enjoy it, savour it, and celebrate.”

As Robinson discovered, cancer changes everything, and wearing a yellow shirt at Relay “means recognizing that whatever you were before cancer has changed — it takes courage.”

Robinson and her family adopted a mantra that helped them through the bleakest times of her fight with the disease, and they called it their 4Bs: Believe, battle, breathe and baby steps.

“We weren’t going to let it take over our lives,” she said.

Robinson remembers how valuable neighbours, co-workers and community members were during her fight, bringing meals to her family, doing the gardening and other tasks.

“What struck me when I walked around the track were the total strangers cheering,” she recalled.

She sees the relay as a metaphor for a cancer journey: You are walking by yourself but total strangers step up to help you along the way.

As poignant as the lap taken by survivors are the luminaries in giant letters that spell the word HOPE, in the spectator stands.

Robinson said that it can be difficult for a survivor to include themselves in the survivors’ lap, but when they do, the rewards are immense.

The act of wearing the yellow shirt encourages other survivors to step up and not be afraid, she said.

“You see someone in that shirt and you share an instant bond with them. It can be scary wearing a yellow shirt because it means recognizing that whatever you were before cancer has changed,” she said.

This year will be her fourth Relay with her Township of Langley Team, which was one of the first of the 59 teams to register for this year’s event. Organizers hope for 90 teams.

Robinson is also raising money for the Canadian Cancer Society, and has already been pledged one third of her goal of $1,600.

Donations can be made online at at http://www.relaybc.ca/langley2012/lynnerobinson.

You can see Robinson’s video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pUKAH_lefw.

For more information, or to register to participate in the Survivor Victory Lap, or as a participant in the Canadian Cancer Society Langley Relay for Life, go to www.relaybc.ca/langley2012 or call 604 533-0822.

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