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Strength in Surviving: Cancer’s effect on the Homestead community

PROUD IN PURPLE The honorary cancer survivors start off the event by walking the first lap of the night. Some of them stayed the whole night with their peers, while most of the adults left to get some sleep. Survivor Drew Wagner, junior, describes his favorite part of the night: “It was immensely powerful to watch the girls shave and donate their hair to such a wonderful cause, without a doubt it will make someone’s day.

Erin Carley

PROUD IN PURPLE The honorary cancer survivors start off the event by walking the first lap of the night. Some of them stayed the whole night with their peers, while most of the adults left to get some sleep. Survivor Drew Wagner, junior, describes his favorite part of the night: “It was immensely powerful to watch the girls shave and donate their hair to such a wonderful cause, without a doubt it will make someone’s day."

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An estimated 1,688,780 cancer cases were diagnosed in 2017. The rate of survivors has increased, yet many teachers and students in our community have gone through the difficulties of cancer.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2002,” Sherry Williams, science teacher, said.

Williams describes what it was like when she first discovered that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I was angry, I then just wanted them to get the cancer out of me, I couldn’t schedule the surgery fast enough. I was very private about it, and I really didn’t tell many people because I didn’t want their sympathy,” Williams, said.

The support system that Williams had is as she describes, “Awesome. I had my friends, family and husband, along with this awesome nurse who helped me with every decision and every step of the way. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her,” Williams said.

Now Williams tries to give back and help others fight, “I do many donations, and my support goes to making sure that all women have access to healthcare and reduced or free mammograms,” she said.

Along with Williams, another Homestead teacher has also fought and is a cancer survivor,  “I had  acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, a type of aggressive Leukemia,” Anthony Navarre, special education teacher,” said.

Navarre, like Williams, also describes his support as “awesome” throughout his journey. “I had so many people helping me. I had Mrs. Navarre there almost 24/7 along with her and my parents,” Navarre said.

Navarre expresses that when he first learned that he had AML,  he felt “shock, then after I let Mrs. Navarre know I didn’t really understand what it meant,” he said.

Navarre, along with his family, now do a lot to raise awareness for cancer. “ I am on the board of a group called Lindsey’s Voice whose their main thing is to create hope. I also run the North Shore conference bone marrow drive which is getting people signed up and ready to be on the bone marrow registry,” Navarre said.

Other local families have also been affected by cancer. Recently, senior Natalie Ceelen’s brother was diagnosed with cancer. “Matthew was diagnosed with a high grade of Osteosarcoma, a rare form of childhood bone cancer, in August 2017,” Ceelen said.

“When I first heard that Matthew has the possibility of having cancer, I cried a lot and didn’t want to hang out with anyone but him. I honestly felt crushed and thought this would never happen to my family. When he was officially diagnosed, my family was kind of ready for it, but my family all stayed strong for one another. The worst part was sometimes I would wake up and forget Matthew has cancer, and then it would all come back and it’s like I’m reliving it over and over. But now that his appointments are kinda routine now we are trying to be there for each other and throughout this we all definitely grew closer as a family,” Ceelen said.

Ceelen helps Matthew has much as possible and is constantly there for him, “As a support system I try to be there for him as much as possible. I do not hang out with my friends as much as I did in the past and I honestly just love hanging out with him and watching movies. I also try to make him laugh as much as possible which helps keep his spirits up,” Ceelen said.

“I constantly tell him that he is so strong, and I love him so much,” Ceelen said.

To fundraise the Ceelen family will be doing more in the future, “My family is focusing on him right now, but we have a GoFundMe account for him, and I am talking at Relay for Life. In future years, we are probably going to do some cancer walks and raise money for other families because we know how hard it is,” Ceelen said.

A way that many show support and fundraise for Cancer research is Homestead’s annual event, Relay for Life. Relay for Life brings students and faculty together to become one step closer to finding a cure.

The goal of Relay For Life is to raise money and awareness for Cancer. This event could go as long as 6-24 hours, and one member from each team has to be walking around the track at all times to signify that, “cancer never sleeps.”

“I think the American Cancer Society is such a good cause because they are raising money for Cancer research. It is the ultimate goal to one day find a cure for cancer so that we don’t have to lose loved ones to the horrible disease,” Grace Looker, senior and leader of Relay For Life, said.

Relay For Life is an important event that that celebrates the survivors along with raising awareness for the effect that cancer has on our society. “I just think that it is important because it brings more awareness and anytime you can support cancer research it is just one of those things that they will have an answer for it, so that is just one of the avenues that you can get awareness for cancer prevention. It is also a really neat and fun way to raise cancer awareness,” Navarre said.

Looker describes the most impactful part of Relay For Life, “I think during Relay For Life the most impactful part is when we sit as a school and listen to speakers from the community share their stories and when we walk the laps in the dark looking at all the luminaria bags lit up. Many people become very emotional because of the people they are honoring during this time. It is awesome to see the school come together to comfort each other during the more somber part of the night,” Looker said.

During Relay For Life there is a lap around for the track for all the survivors called the “Survivors Lap,” which is significant because it recognizes those who have fought through the difficulties of cancer.

“[During that event] I’m very happy for me, but I am so sad for those who aren’t there,” Williams said.

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Strength in Surviving: Cancer’s effect on the Homestead community