Cancer survivor Julie Roark will be walking the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at Denham Springs High School on April 17, in part for her family, including her son and daughter, 15 and 16, who both celebrated a birthday April 4.
Roark was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma in 2011, and started a Relay for Life team consisting of her significant support network soon after.
“I have a big family,” she said, estimating at least 30 people — probably more — who will be making laps around the DSHS track from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. April 17.
She is fighting lymphoma for the third time. “I just got another PET scan to see if the hot spot they found has grown,” she said. She will get her results the Thursday before the race.
“It’s upsetting, especially after you’ve already been through treatment twice, but there are so many people who are in so much worse shape than me,” she said.
She walks for those people, too.
She said she had a great support system and phenomenal friends who chipped in to buy her a wig when she lost her hair after chemotherapy.
“Wigs are expensive. What I love about Relay is that it comes back to the Livingston community to pay for things like wigs, and rides to doctor’s appointments,” she said.
She walks because she can. Because, despite the uncertainty she’s living with at the moment, she feels good.
“For me, personally, during the time I was going through treatment, I obviously felt really bad, and I think it’s really easy for people going through this to focus on the bad part,” she said.
She refused to give into it, she said, instead getting up every day and doing something, even when she felt like rolling over and going back to sleep. Life moves on, she said, and the laps she does as part of the relay are very symbolic of that.
She walks with her team in groups, and they are the same people who supported her emotionally and physically.
“It’s really a celebration,” she said. “And we have such a good time, it’s really a lot of fun.”
Laura Dunlap, organizer of the local event, said last year an estimated 1,000 people participated in the walk, and they raised more than $32,000.
This year, they’ve set a goal of $37,000.
Dunlap, also assistant principal at Seventh Ward Elementary School, said several schools in the area have teams, and her school’s team is at about 40 people, mostly teachers.
“Individuals interested in being a part of relay can go online to join a team or start a team, but you do not have to be on a team to attend. We want the entire community to come out and enjoy the booths that will be selling raffle tickets for various items, have food, and various other endeavors to raise money for the American Cancer Society,” Dunlap said, and there will be plenty to entertain people when they aren’t walking.
Radio personalities Murphy and Jody will be there from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Sheriff Jason Ard has offered his dunking booth and the Fire Department’s smoke house from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., she said.
A free survivor dinner will be available starting at 5 p.m., Dunlap said. The opening ceremony begins at 6 p.m. with a welcome from Mayor Gerald Landry and Parish President Layton Ricks, with a ceremonial lap for survivors at 6:30 p.m., and a caregiver lap to follow.
Register for the race at relay.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLCY15MS?fr_id=64280&pg=entry.