by Jacinthe Guitard

The first time I heard about cancer, I was 9 years old. My mother had just learned that she had breast cancer. It was in 1971 and at that time, cancer research and treatments were not very advanced. Four years later, her cancer had generalized and I lost my mother. She was 59 and I was 13. For a young girl, it was a harsh reality. Because of this terrible disease, all my life events – my graduation, my wedding, and the birth of my children – were marked by a huge void.Jacinthe

In 1997, my brother was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a cancer that typically affects children. My brother was one of the rare adults to be diagnosed with this type of cancer. He endured 14 months of chemotherapy and 35 radiation treatments. After 18 months of treatment, he was finally cured. He had 16 beautiful cancer-free years, but then, two years ago, he learned that he had an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma as well as leukemia. He just completed 8 months of chemotherapy and is now in remission.

During the years when my brother was healthy, cancer came back to touch our family too many times. My sister had a cancer of the meninges (the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord) and had no chance at all. She died only a few months after the diagnosis. My two other sisters also had breast cancer. Fortunately, because of advancements in research and treatments, they are now proud cancer survivors.

So, if you ask me why I Relay, the answer is simple. I Relay to help fund research that will ensure that my family and others do not lose the people we love too early. Research can change the world and I know it. I have lost loved ones but some are also still with me and that is fantastic!

I also raise funds and walk the track at Relay For Life so that one day, no other 13 year old girl will have to face growing up and living through her life’s most important moments without her mother by her side.