After her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1973, Catherine Coulson did not take her own cancer screenings lightly. “My mother passed away after battling breast cancer for five years and so I wanted to be vigilant about my own health,” explained Catherine. “I am very glad that I paid close attention, as eleven years after she passed away, I felt a lump in my breast.”

A wife and mother in her late thirties with two young daughters, Catherine was diagnosed with breast cancer, which led to a bilateral mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy treatment. She was later declared cancer-free in 1990, but has never forgotten her battle.

After receiving much needed support from a Canadian Cancer Society volunteer during her recovery, she was inspired herself to become a volunteer with the Society and went on to become President of the Waterloo Region Unit. It was during her tenure as President that she was able to participate in the first ever Relay For Life event in Canada.

“I am not an especially emotional person,” said Catherine, “but when I look back to my participation in the first Survivors’ Victory Lap, I am still today profoundly grateful and emotionally present in that moment.”

Catherine’s favorite part of Relay For Life is the Luminary Ceremony as “it represents such a depth of meaning for everyone. I will never forget my first ceremony as it was so inspiring – a moment to remember, honour and acknowledge the journey we are all on together,“ explained Catherine.

Soon after she participated in that Relay For Life, Catherine decided to step back from her volunteer role at the Society due to the demands of a new job, but still continued to attend the Kitchener-Waterloo Relay For Life throughout the years.

Once Catherine retired from the corporate world in 2011, she decided to get involved in volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society again. Today, she is the Chair of both the Kitchener-Waterloo and the Cambridge Relay For Life committees. As chair, she feels closer than ever to the event and wants to deliver the opportunity for participants to have the best possible experience, as well as raise enough money so that cancer can be defeated once and for all.

“Relay For Life is the signature fundraising event of the Canadian Cancer Society, and so anyone who participates leaves feeling like they have done a really good thing,” explains Catherine. “It is a wonderful event that brings out the absolute best in people and reminds us there is always hope.”