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Cancer survivors lead Relay for Life

HANNAH MCLEOD AND AMANDA PARKINSON
Last updated 05:00 03/03/2014

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Southlanders rugged up and dug their heels in to raise more than $120,000 for local cancer services and research.

The Ridd family pitched a tent and began a 22-hour marathon on Saturday, at the annual Cancer Society charity event Relay for Life.

Thirteen-year-old Xanthe Ridd said it was fun because everyone had "a good spirit".

When things were tough it was good to have someone beside her, to help spur her on, she said.

Her mother Debra Ridd said the weather held out all right, but it became cold from about 4pm or 5pm.

The family would be sore today and there would be a few blisters, she said.

The family averaged between 18 to 20 laps of Rugby Park every hour.

In New Zealand cancer affects one in three people.

Invercargill woman Kathy Obers is one of the lucky survivors.

After waiting five years for a pap smear her GP delivered some devastating news.

She was diagnosed with uterine cancer, which a month later led to a full hysterectomy.

This year, Mrs Obers participated in her first Relay for Life, using the event to remind women of the importance of regular pap smears.

During her illness her colleagues at Surrey Park Early Childhood centre were incredibly supportive, Mrs Obers said.

That support manifested again when they all walked beside her on Saturday night.

Almost one year on, she is in remission, but will need to continue having pap smears every three months.

She had some advice for anyone diagnosed with cancer: "Think positive, look forward, and set yourself goals."

And she advised women to keep up to date with smears.

Otago and Southland Cancer Society chief executive Mike Kernaghan said Relay for Life meant different things for each participant.

"For some, it's to celebrate they have had [cancer], and they have beaten it. For others, it's a time for people who have lost family or friends to remember.

"There are some people who do not fit into either of those categories, and so for them it's about acknowledging the impact cancer has in the community."

Organisers believe that at one stage of the night, there were more than 1000 walkers plus volunteers taking part.

Relay for Life event co-ordinator Lyndal Ludlow said: "We had prams being pushed and toddlers walking, right up to people with zimmer frames and mobility walkers."

About $120,000 had been banked, but teams are still actively fundraising, she said.

"We are expecting more to come in over the coming weeks."

All money raised will be used for Southland supportive care services, research and health promotions.

Invercargill city Mayor Tim Shadbolt, Gore districts Mayor Tracy Hicks, and Southland district Mayor Gary Tong opened the relay with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

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Birds were also released and cancer survivors, wearing purple ribbons and led by a lone piper, made the first lap.

About 88 teams registered, with between 10 and 20 people in each team.

hannah.mcleod@stl.co.nz

- The Southland Times

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