“I don’t know a single person who hasn’t been affected, in some way, by cancer . . . (and) we want to make the community aware,” said Wende Mersereau of Norwalk’s RFL Chapter.
For Mersereau, her involvement with RFL and the ACS doesn’t end at heading meetings and coordinating events — the chairwoman has stood up to cancer herself.
“I’m still fighting,” she said, having celebrated the 19th anniversary of her own battle with cancer in May. “Even though I’m blessed to have my cancer gone, once you get diagnosed, that hangs in the back of your mind always.”
“(So) I want to help more (cancer) survivors celebrate more birthdays. They’ve made it. And we honor those who didn’t survive.”
The event will feature cancer survivors sharing their personal experiences after being diagnosed, a luminary seminar by Trisha Ebner, a flag-raising ceremony by a local Boy Scouts troop, a corn hole tournament and even a cutest baby contest.
A proponent of donating, volunteering and other forms of community support, Mersereau insists the money raised for the American Cancer Society do, actually, go to the development of cancer programs and services.
“Seventy-six cents of every dollar goes to programs and research. ... Which is the highest amount ‘given away’ by non-profits,” Mersereau said, adding “$13.7 million has been raised for cancer research in Ohio.”
Perhaps more tangible examples of what funding for the ACS has done to bridge the gap between cancer patients and the services they need are:
Free transportation to-and-from doctors appointments through the Road to Recovery program, places that offer housing for traveling between hospital visits, like the Joseph S. and Jeanette M. Silber Hope Lodge in Cleveland, Wig Banks as well as PET scans and imaging tests among others.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, a positron emission tomography/PET scan can: detect cancer (cells), pinpoint where the cells are located, see whether treatments are working or not and spotting any recurrences of the disease.
Despite the fact the machines came onto the scene in 1977, Mersereau didn’t see the inside of one. “I never received a PET scan. I don’t know why (the) doctors didn’t order one for me.”
Not one to wallow amidst the things she didn’t receive, Mersereau instead focuses on how to help those suffering from the disease and the friends and families that go through those trials alongside them.
“I want people to have (access) to resources that maybe weren’t available to me or (those) before me. I want there to be places cancer patients and survivors can go to get help; to know that they are not alone. And of course, to survive and to be here and celebrate more birthdays.”
Whitney Field is located at 18 St. Mary’s Street, in Norwalk.
Information on Norwalk’s upcoming Relay for Life events can be found on the organization’s Facebook page. More on the work the American Cancer Society does through Relay For Life can be found on its respective websites, or at cancer.org.