Relay unites survivors, supporters

The theme of this year's event was Christmas in July

Mike DiFerdinando
The July 19 Castle Rock Relay for Life begins with the Survivors Lap.
Mike DiFerdinando
Christina Mullen, along with friend Debbie Hyer (left), addresses walkers at the 2014 Castle Rock Relay for Life at the Douglas County Fair Grounds.
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Debbie Hyer struggled to hold back the tears as she addressed the crowd July 19 at the 2014 Castle Rock Relay for Life.

Standing outside of the Douglas County Fairgrounds, Hyer along with a number of other survivors and supporters, spoke about how cancer had impacted her life.

“(My mom) passed away almost four years ago of lung cancer, and she was one of the bravest, strongest women that I've ever known,” said Hyer, who is the co-chair for the Castle Rock edition of the relay. “Cancer touched our lives again last year when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I wouldn't be here if wasn't for my husband, my family, my friends. I'm just so happy to see everybody out here.”

Hyer invited someone special to her, Christina Mullen, a breast health navigator at Sky Ridge Medical Center, to give the keynote speech and kick off the relay.

“She held my hand throughout my entire process from start to finish. She leads our support group once a month and I would have been lost without her,” Hyer said.

Mullen, who paused for a long hug with her friend before taking the microphone, spoke to the crowd about her experiences with the disease.

“Most of you who have received a cancer diagnosis will never forget the day that you were diagnosed,” Mullen said. “It's a day filled with emotions. Emotions like denial, the doctors must have gotten it wrong. Fear, what am I going to tell my family and how am I going to pay for this? Anger, this can't be happening to me. I don't have time for this.

“In a new world of too many doctor's appointments and too may procedures and bad phone calls and not enough good news, a breast health navigator is someone who understands you, that is there to listen and has the time to listen to you. My job is to educate people and make sure that they are empowered to make the right choices for them and their family."

Mullen encouraged people to take advantage of the resources that are available to help them in their time of need and said that, often times, what cancer patient really need is simply someone to listen.

“You guys are the most powerful, courageous, people I know. You inspire us every day,” Mullen said before starting the relay by sending cancer survivors out for the traditional first Survivors Lap. “Congratulations on kicking cancer's butt and being a survivor one more day."

Relay for Life is an organized, overnight community fundraising walk to raise money for the American Cancer Society and cancer research.

Teams of people camp out around a track while members of each team take turns walking around the track.

The theme of this year's relay was Christmas in July. Walkers in the overnight event decorated tents and sleeping areas with holiday decorations and Santa even made an appearance

“I've been here about four years doing relay for life. This is a community event,” Richard Wright said. “It's a big, huge party for the right cause, people helping people in the fight against cancer.”