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The fight against cancer goes online during pandemic

  • Article Image Alt Text
    Krista Marx, part of the leadership team for Relay for Life of Elgin and an eight-year cancer survivor, shares why she participates in Relay for Life. Photos courtesy of Relay for Life of Elgin
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Jana Bone from Elgin participates in the virtual luminaria ceremony, where she and other participants pretend to pass their candle to the person in the next video.
  • Article Image Alt Text
    The family of Tomas Ramon (back), a one-year cancer survivor, express their support for him. Photos courtesy of Relay for Life of Elgin
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Cecil Rico from Elgin shares his story as a cancer survivor.

While health concerns due to COVID-19 have led to many canceled and postponed in-person events this spring, the Relay for Life of Elgin team and other groups came together digitally to continue the fight against cancer.

This year, Relay for Life programs from cities, counties and communities across Central and West Texas, including Elgin, collaborated in a video shared to Facebook on Thursday night meant to serve as a virtual Relay for Life event. Other groups of Relay for Life programs have also gone digital, such as Relay for Life of Copperas Cove and Lampasas on April 4.

The virtual event included music, words from team leaders and a digital luminaria ceremony in which participants filmed themselves passing a candle, giving the illusion that they were passing their candle to the person in the next video. The video also featured submitted photographs and videos from cancer survivors and Relay supporters; survivors shared their diagnosis and how many years they have survived, while others shared their reason why they participate in Relay for Life or the person who inspired them to participate. The video can be found on the Relay for Life of Comal County Facebook page @RFLComalCounty.

The Relay for Life of Elgin team was planning a different kind of celebration for 2020. Instead of a traditional Relay for Life event, the plan this year was to hold a festival-like event called RelayFest in Veterans’ Memorial Park on April 25 from 6 p.m. to midnight. RelayFest would have featured live music, fundraising and some of the traditional Relay for Life events such as luminarias and various ceremonies.

However, as the COVID-19 pandemic caused many events to be canceled, postponed or uncertain in March, RelayFest was no exception.

“When (Elgin’s RelayFest) was cancelled, there was a period of mourning, because it’s so important to folks to be able to stand together and fight together,” said Krista Lee Marx, the Relay for Life of Elgin people lead and the regional survivor and caregiver lead. “Then, when the proposal came out for this virtual event, it sparked some hope, but also because it was unknown, there was just that feeling of, ‘How do you capture the feeling of Relay?’”

However, Marx said, the event was “tremendous,” although it was very different from prior events.

“Seeing it all in that one hour, I think I cried an entire Relay’s worth of tears: happy tears and sad tears and just moved to tears,” she said. “We started off 2020 with great excitement, looking forward to doing something that was going to be completely different, and then we ended up doing something that was completely different than we envisioned.”

One downside , Marx said, was not being able to hug fellow Relay for Life participants like at an in-person event. However, an unexpected surprise was that more people were able to participate in the virtual event than could usually participate in Relay for Life.

Marx said the Relay for Life team has had to adjust their fundraising goals this year in light of the pandemic, as well as remain aware of the trying time many people are facing right now while asking for contributions.

“Because cancer doesn’t stop, we can’t stop either,” she said. “Being able to have this virtual Relay gave us that push to continue our part in the fight. In this crazy, crazy world that we’re in right now, we want to end the fight against stupid cancer, while being cognizant and safe in the world of stupid coronavirus.”

Those interested in helping Relay for Life of Elgin can visit www.RelayForLife.org/ElginTX to donate.

“Donations are just a drop in the bucket of what they have been in the past,” Marx said. “We say all the time, ‘Every dollar makes a difference,’ and it’s even truer now than it ever has been before.”

Marx emphasized that the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t mean Relay for Life or the American Cancer Society can stop fighting against cancer. On the contrary, she said, the fight is now more urgent than ever; for example, people may not be able to go to the doctor as easily due to the virus, so some people may not be able to detect and be diagnosed with cancer early enough.

“It just makes the fight all that more urgent, that we do every single thing in our power to help all of those people who have been diagnosed and all of those that probably should have been diagnosed but are having a delayed diagnosis because of the virus,” Marx said. “This virus doesn’t end cancer, and the fight against cancer doesn’t end now, either.”