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Walkers try to put cancer on the run

An American Cancer Society fundraiser kicks off tonight. Teams will walk for 18 hours straight.

By EBONY WINDOM
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 11, 2003


Rosemary Masters felt unpretty.

The chemotherapy not only left her exhausted but also took away her stylish bob, her lashes and eyebrows.

One windy day while dropping her teenage daughter off at school, she suffered the ultimate embarrassment.

"Sitting in my car, hair started blowing off my head," said Masters, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999.

She found support at the Look Good, Feel Better program, offered by the American Cancer Society. Members showed her how to use makeup and offered hats "so when I went back to work, I didn't feel like a freak," she said.

Today, Masters, 52, calls herself a survivor. On Friday, she plans to help the programs that saved her life and her self-esteem.

Masters, who has been given a clean bill of health, will walk in the cancer society's Relay For Life at Wesley Chapel High School

"Relay for Life is a community event. It allows individuals to join as a team to fight against cancer," said Melissa Lauer, special events manager for the cancer society.

An opening ceremony will kick off the relay at 6 p.m. with a dedication to Masters and other cancer survivors. During the event, teams of local businesses, families and churches will camp out along the school's track for 18 hours. For the duration, team members will continuously walk around the track, one at a time.

"The whole point behind the relay is cancer never sleeps, so why should you?" Lauer said.

There will be plenty of excitement during the relay.

Organizers say there will be nonstop hot kettle corn, face painting, flea markets and games to raise money for the cancer society. Each team hosts a different fundraiser.

"We really encourage the whole community to come out," said Bonnie Rudge, chairwoman for Central Pasco Relay for Life.

Masters and 14 other faculty and staff members from Sand Pine Elementary School, where she works as an instructional assistant, have formed a team for the relay. The Sand Pine "1 Racing for a Cure" will take donations for chances to win baskets filled with goodies such as gift certificates, movie tickets and gourmet snacks.

The Look Good, Feel Better program and others are funded through profits from the relay.

Proceeds benefit cancer research, education, advocacy and services, Lauer said, with 60 percent staying in Pasco and 40 percent going to national research programs. This year's fundraising goal is $45,000.

Organizers say the highlight of the night will be the luminaria ceremony at 9 tonight. Anyone can buy a luminaria in honor, memory or support of a survivor. Flickering luminarias will line the entire track area.

"It will be a beautiful, solemn ceremony," Rudge said.

Masters plans to take part in the luminaria ceremony.

"You cannot be always wallowing in self pity," she said. "The sooner we find a cure the better. It's just a matter of time."

Relay for Life schedule

Friday-Saturday

Kickoff starts at 6 p.m. Friday.

Wesley Chapel High School

30651 Wells Road

Wesley Chapel

* * *

May 16-17

Saint Leo University

33701 State Road 52

St. Leo

* * *

May 2-3

Gulf High School

5355 School Road

New Port Richey

* * *

May 2-3

Mitchell High School

2323 Little Road

New Port Richey

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