Local News

Saturday, Jan 18 2014 07:12 PM

Survival stories shared at Relay for Life kickoff celebration

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    During Saturday's Bakersfield Relay for Life kick-off event, main speaker David Veneziano, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society California Division, speaks to a crowd at the Bright House Networks Amphitheater at The Park at Riverwalk.

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  2. 2 of 5

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    The crowd claps during one of the encouraging speeches Saturday at the Bright House Networks Amphitheater at The Park at Riverwalk during the Bakersfield Relay for Life kick-off event for the upcoming annual Relay for Life events.

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  3. 3 of 5

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    It was a nice turnout Saturday in the Bright House Networks Amphitheater at The Park at Riverwalk for the Bakersfield for Life kick-off event for the upcoming events they hold each year.

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  4. 4 of 5

    By Casey Christie /The Californian

    Cancer survivor Lucas Alexander runs joyfully up the stairs at the Bright House Networks Amphitheater at The Park at Riverwalk during Saturday's Relay for Life kick-off event. Alexander's grandmother, Jeanne Tate, talked before the crowd about her grandson's wonderful treatment and recovery.

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  5. 5 of 5

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Ken Tate, left, holds his grandson Nico Rubio while sitting next to his wife Jeanne Tate, right, and their daughter Theresa Rubio, (back) holding her son Vincent Rubio, Nico's twin brother, during Saturday's Bakersfield Relay for LIfe kick-off event in Bakersfield. The Tate's other grandson, Lucas Alexander, is a cancer survivor and was also on hand for the event, but is not in this photo.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Jeanne Tate said her grandson's fever at first wasn't cause for alarm. Doctors said it would subside in a short while.

It didn't.

A trip to the emergency room and a blood test resulted in a diagnosis of leukemia for then-7-month-old Lucas Alexander. His parents quit their jobs to care for him full-time, and the next year was filled with chemotherapy, infections and hospital stays.

Lucas survived, and is now a healthy 5-year-old. In telling Lucas' story Saturday at the kick-off celebration for the American Cancer Society's Bakersfield Relay for Life, Tate thanked those who have supported the relay and helped raise money for advances in cancer research and treatment.

"He truly is our miracle boy," Tate said of her grandson.

A crowd of several hundred seated at the Bright House Networks Amphitheatre applauded Tate and her grandson as they left the stage. She was one of several speakers who shared stories of recovery and survival.

Relay for Life is the banner fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, whose mission includes funding research, education, advocacy and service programs. More than 6,500 people participated in last year's Bakersfield relay.

The path leading to the amphitheatre was lined with white paper bags with the word "Hope" on them in purple letters. The dozens of cancer survivors in attendance wore purple shirts.

Linda Washington said this was her first time at a relay event. She'd suffered from bladder cancer that is currently in remission.

She said she's nervous, but puts her trust in the Lord. The support she's received from family and friends has been tremendous.

As a first-time attendee to a relay event, she was pleased with what she saw. Washington said everyone had made her feel welcome.

"It's a lot of caring people," she said.

Sandra Rupe was also wearing purple. She said she'd twice had breast cancer, but it's been in remission for a year.

Making friends at relay events and building a stronger support nework make a huge difference, she said. People who have never had cancer can't imagine the challenges it brings.

This year's Bakersfield relay wil be held May 3 and 4 at Wingspoint at the corner of Merle Haggard and Airport drives in Oildale. New teams are invited to learn more and become part of the event.

For more information, go to www.relayforlife.org/bakersfieldca.

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