Michael Antcliffe has led the fight against cancer in Thunder Bay for several years, so it was fitting he was out in front of the Relay for Life’s survivor victory lap Friday at Fort William Historical Park.
Antcliffe, who has written a book about his fight with the disease, and held several fundraisers to help researchers stop it in its tracks, said seeing hundreds of people lining the route brought joy to his heart, knowing his time may be short.
“It is good to have so many people drawn together and their attention focused solely on finding ways to beat this disease,” Antcliffe said.
“It brings tears to your eyes when you realize how many people are getting behind one cause.”
Antcliffe was one of about 130 survivors who took the first lap, a group that included 10-year survivor Ed Knutsen.
A longtime volunteer with the Canadian Cancer Society, Knutsen said he was there to pay tribute to those who weren’t so lucky.
“I think it’s very important to remember the people who aren’t here now, as well as the people who are here. There are a lot more survivors than there used to be. There’s so much research done for cancer over the times,” Knutsen said.
“I was a driver and I used to take people to the Canadian Cancer Society and to chemo and everything else, and I lost a lot of friends doing that. But at the same time I felt I was doing something important.”
For cancer research, events like the annual Relay For Life – also being staged in Fort Frances on Friday – are among the single-biggest contributors to the scientists conducting it.
Kyle Vanravenswaay, a fundraising co-ordinator with the organization, said locally it’s that much more important. By no means does the local chapter raise the amount of money it needs to offer the programs it does and conduct the research needed to find a cure.
“It’s probably the biggest fundraiser in Thunder Bay for cancer, which is great. We have about probably 1,800 people here tonight and probably about 130 survivors getting ready to take their first victory lap,” he said.
It’s more than just raising money, he added.
“The survivor victory lap is one of my favourite parts of the event,” Vanravenswaay said. “It’s a celebration that we are making strides and we are making advancements in the fight against cancer. And the survivor victory lap grows. Every year we get more and more people out, which is great to see.
“We’re here. We’re going to spend 12 hours together, we’re going to light luminaries together. That’s what it’s all about.”
Antcliffe, who has been stricken by cancer twice in his life, isn’t sure if he’ll live to see the 2013 event. But the 37-year-old promised he’ll battle as hard as he can to make it.”
‘I’m fighting it with everything I’ve got. I don’t know how much I’ve got left. I’ve put a lot of the table already. But we’ll see how it goes.”
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