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Saturday Brunch Celebrates Local Cancer Survivors
Esc survivors
Joining in to celebrate survivorship at the Relay For Life Survivor Brunch on Saturday were Escalon residents, from left, Nancy Prater, Jackie Sappenfield, Delores Grabow and Suzanne Tengelsen. Marg Jackson/The Times

With the 2018 Relay For Life now less than a month away, cancer survivors and caregivers gathered for a special celebration on Saturday, April 7.

The annual Survivor Brunch was hosted at the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Station on East G Street in Oakdale, bringing together survivors from the local communities. This year’s Relay, set for May 5 and 6, is a combined effort of Oakdale, Riverbank, Escalon and Waterford.

Organizers said they were pleased with the turnout and excited to see survivors from the varying communities share in the camaraderie of the day.

There were goodie bags, drawings for prizes and a brunch with specialty items cooked up by firefighters of the Stanislaus Consolidated Department, including an engineer and captain stationed in Riverbank who grilled up the chicken. The brunch was served at the fire station itself, with the firefighting apparatus moved out of the main bay.

As the Relay itself is consolidated into one large event out of four separate ones, Event Leadership team members want to encourage participation from residents of all the cities involved.

Relay For Life is a 24-hour team event, the signature fundraising effort of the American Cancer Society, with teams having at least one member on the track at all times during the Relay. Opening ceremonies will be at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 5 at the soccer fields on the Oakdale High School campus.

Teams can come from churches, service clubs, schools, families, workplaces – all join together in the effort to raise money to fight cancer and heighten awareness of steps people can take to reduce their cancer risk.

All survivors are invited to the Relay to spend as much time as they can, since there will be a special ‘Survivor–Caregiver’ area with multiple events and activities designed for them.

Guest speaker on Saturday was Michelle Nunn, a retired elementary school teacher from Oakdale and a breast cancer survivor.

She got involved in Relay several years ago and never thought she would be on the opposite side as a ‘survivor’ instead of just a participant. She was diagnosed in 2010 – just before that year’s Relay For Life.

“I had been on a team before,” she said, “but now Relay was for me.”

She noted that keeping a journal during her treatment, recovery, and the aftermath helped her stay centered and was a good tool in helping her come to terms with feelings and fears. Nunn said her faith also was a key part in her cancer journey.

“I have trusted in God my whole life,” she said. “Focus on hope and faith. The word ‘survivor’ is a very hopeful one.”

Nunn also praised her husband, who was her caregiver, for being with her through the entire journey and said the role of the caregiver is so important, as it lets the cancer patient focus on the fight.

“We didn’t have all sparkling rainbows and unicorns,” she admitted. “There were a lot of bumps in the road.”

But the road for Nunn was one to recovery, and she said she didn’t want cancer to define her life.

“We’re survivors,” she told the crowd.

All those survivors in attendance did a special ‘survivor lap’ around the firehouse equipment bay as music played, then posed for a group photo to close out their brunch.