Cancer Survivors Honored At Lakeland Relay For Life
by James Coulter
Like most other women, Charise Pacheco checks herself through regular breast self-exams. However, even when checking herself routinely, it was not until her annual mammogram that her breast cancer was detected and diagnosed in 2012.
“The biggest thing I always tell people is to do your annual exams,” she said. “I did not have a lump like most women do in their breast. I had cancer cells all throughout it. I would have never felt it with a monthly check. None of that. The only way I could have done it was through my mammogram.”
Fortunately, her cancer was detected early enough that she did not require either chemotherapy or radiation. Her cancer was treated with relative ease through a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
As a cancer survivor, not only does she advise others to take their annual medical exams regularly and often, but she also advises staying close with your family, friends, and loved ones.
Unlike many other cancer patients, who require organizations like the American Cancer Society (ACS) to provide services such as transportation to medical treatment, Pacheco had family and friends to help provide those services, as well as much needed emotional support.
“If you have family or friends or loved ones going through it, the best support you can get is from your family because having your loved next to you when you are feeling like [crud] is what you want, not from a stranger,” she said.
Even then, Pacheco remains grateful to the ACS for providing people less fortunate than her with services to help them through their personal fight with cancer. This is why she chose to support the organization through its annual fundraiser on Friday evening.
Pacheo shared her story about her victory over cancer last week at Munn Park in Downtown Lakeland during the annual Lakeland Relay For Life, the ACS fundraiser to help raise funds and awareness for cancer treatment and research within the Lakeland community.
The annual event involves various teams from local businesses and organizations within the community, whose team members take turn walking laps to symbolize the journey of patients towards their victory over cancer. Their other team members set up booths to sell food, merchandise, and other activities as to raise money for the event.
Previous events had been hosted at the Lakeland High School and Lake Mirror Promenade. This year’s event was hosted at Munn Park with more than 20 teams participating with more than 100 volunteers, according to the event’s website.
The GFWC Junior Woman’s Club of Lakeland was one of the teams participating this year. Their team ranked in third place, raising more than $1,800, coming close to their goal of $2,000, according to the website.
Tracy Bright, a veteran member, attended that evening with 20 of her fellow members. They have been attending this event for years, and regularly volunteer to help local organizations such as the PACE Center For Girls.
She especially loves this event because of the camraderie with other local community members to help for a local cause, and she hopes more people would attend in the future, she said.
“It is an amazing gathering,” she said during a speech at the opening ceremony. “So during the next several hours, we will be together on a life-changing journey that will celebrate those who had battled against cancer, remember those we have lost, and renew our community fight back against this disease to help end it once and for all.”
This year’s theme was “I-rish For A Cure”, as this year’s event was close to St. Patrick’s Day. As such, the color green was featured prominently alongside the event’s color of purple.
Each of the 30 campsites at the location were filled that evening, more than meeting initial expectations. As such, expectations are high for the event to continue growing in the near future, explained Sandy Kulp, team member with the Experience Leauge of Lakeland.
“One day we would like to overflow [from the park] and be on Kentucky and shut down the street,” she said. “That is how much we want to grow…We plan to keep growing and grow out of this park area and onto the streets because we have so many teams that will show up.”