Thousands raised for cancer

STU Relay for Life a success

By: Kyle Mullin

More than 150 students gathered in the St. Thomas courtyard Friday to pull an all-nighter to help in the fight against cancer.

Pledges were gathered for the marchers, heads were shaved for wigs, and luminaries were lit for the diagnosed at this year’s Relay for Life, an overnight marathon dedicated to raising awareness, money and morale for those touched by cancer.

“I relay because cancer has affected my entire life,” Matt Sheriko, a second-year student and the chair for this year’s Relay, said in a speech before the event.

Sheriko’s father, Tom, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1988, a few months shy of Matt’s birth.

He passed away in 2007, just as Matt was about to start his first year at STU.

Sheriko’s mother, Kathi, began treatment for breast cancer in 2004.

Two of Sheriko’s grandparents were recently diagnosed.

“I’m comfortable where I am with it all, comfortable talking about it,” he said. “I’ve come to accept it and see it as an opportunity that makes you stronger, helps you to see life is precious and to live everyday to the fullest.”

Kathi, who also spoke at the Relay, agreed with her son’s sentiment.

She said the ordeal has given her the opportunity to show people what cancer is really about.

“It’s important to talk about it,” she said.

“It’s important to take the mystique away from cancer so everyone can see that it’s real people with real issues that can be overcome. If they can hear that it doesn’t have to be quite as frightening, that something can be done to make something of it.”

She said her late husband’s illness drew her children closer together.

It motivated Matt to get involved in charity and his brother Jordan to study medicine, and possibly neurology so he might one day treat the same kind of tumours.

“This disease can be frightening, but it doesn’t have to be,” said Jeremy Fowler, a second-year STU student who survived testicular cancer this winter.

“When you’re 19, losing a ball is like losing a best friend. It was a tough time for me and Charleton – I named the other one, he’s a trooper.”

He said it was tougher on his family as they banded behind Jeremy to give him the support he needed.

“They say no one person is ever diagnosed, it’s their whole family,” he said. “And that couldn’t be any more true.”

Jon DeCoste, the event’s registration co-chair, said this year’s Relay attracted more than 170 students in 18 teams, six more than last year.

This is the third time he’s been involved with the event, and he said this was easily the largest, with over $10,000 raised.

“We have staff and faculty involved for the first time this time,” he said. “That’s a really cool way to get people involved and bring the community together.”

President Michael Higgins agreed, saying he was glad to see the campus community come together and offer such “social generosity,” including the generosity of those who shared their stories.

“It’s admirable, the courage it takes to get up there and talk about it, I’m not sure if I could’ve done it myself at their age,” he said.

“And to do it in such a self-deprecating way takes what could have been mere sympathy from the audience, and turns it into something far more empowering.”

Fowler said refusing to feel sorry for himself got him through.

“You have two options with cancer – sit around and be sorry for yourself, or look at it as an obstacle and overcome it.

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