MILLINOCKET — Ten-year-old Kayli Morrow is cancer-free and her mother wants to keep her that way.
That’s not as easy as you might think. Kayli’s great-grandfather Herman Morrow Sr. died in 2005 after a long, hard-fought battle with cancer, and several of his closest relatives also have had cancer, said Angela Morrow, who had been taking intermittent chemotherapy treatments since 2007 that became weekly bouts last September when doctors found that her breast and bone cancer had relapsed.
“I lose my hair and it just runs you down,” the 27-year-old Morrow said Tuesday of the radiation treatments. “It hurts your immune system so I can’t go outside in the sun a lot because my skin is more sensitive to it. I can burn a lot easier and I don’t heal as quick as most people. A little bug bite takes me a lot longer to heal. I don’t enjoy summer much.”
Those are among the reasons that Morrow hopes for a strong turnout at the 2011 Katahdin Relay For Life, which will be held Friday, June 17, starting at 6 p.m. at Stearns High School and ending late the next morning. The public is invited.
Too many people, Morrow says, suffer from cancer, and the contributions the overnight memorial and celebratory event raises for cancer research will eventually produce cures for the deadly illness.
“I like doing it just to spread awareness. I wasn’t very aware of how serious it [cancer] was,” Morrow, one of the event’s organizers, said. “When I went to the doctors, I didn’t know what to tell them [of her family history]; they didn’t have the right information. By the time all my history came out it was too late. Now I am stage four.”
“Relay offers support for people who are going through the whole cancer experience,” said Margo Stevens, a 33-year-old Millinocket resident who has served as the Katahdin event’s volunteer coordinator since it began in 2008. “It also offers support for caregivers and people that have been affected by cancer, and gives participants the feeling of being able to do something. Cancer is one of those things that can really make you feel helpless.”
But besides all that, relays are fun, Morrow said. The event is like a sleepover for adults, with teams of volunteers walking laps in relays around the Stearns track overnight to raise awareness and funding for cancer research as others sleep in tents or party.
Barbecues, concession food and beverages, Zumba, live and recorded music including bagpipes, and raffles bolster the camaraderie. Marchers also don apparel or otherwise act in keeping with hourly themes, such as “Walk Backward” or “Crazy Hat,” Stevens said.
Teams can register for the event at the 2011 Katahdin ME Relay for Life page at the American Cancer Society Website and some already have started competing. As of Tuesday, Team Morrow led the 16 teams registered so far with $2,469 raised.
Team and individual registrations will occur at 4 p.m. June 17. Opening ceremonies and the Survivor Lap — a lap around the track dedicated to and largely consisting of those who have survived cancer — start at 6 p.m. and the Luminary March is at 10 p.m. People who attend will enjoy the event, and maybe learn a few things, Morrow said.
“If somebody learns what I didn’t know,” she said, “maybe they [doctors] can catch it sooner and they won’t have to go through what I went through.”