Relay for Life takes new steps

•annual cancer awareness event and fundraiser takes a step down a new path this year.

The American Cancer Society Relay for Life moves to downtown Columbus and has been shortened from 24 hours to 12 when it kicks off at 11 a.m. May 14.

Although shorter in duration, the fundraising goal for this year’s Relay for Life in Columbus has increased — with $79,000 to support cancer research in Indiana raised last year, and aspirations of reaching $85,000 this year.

Nationally, Relay for Life raises more than $125 million in research dollars per year, $6 million of which goes toward cancer research in Indiana.

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This is Relay for Life’s 22nd appearance in Columbus, driven by volunteers, cancer survivors and their families, said Katharine Toburen, Relay for Life senior community manager.

This year, the event will be using Fourth Street between Jackson and Franklin streets as its track. It was conducted at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds and Columbus East High School the past two years respectively.

At least 30 teams are expected to participate, including Team Ram Power, made up of Cummins Inc. employees.

Columbus resident Cindy Tormoehlen will be part of that Relay group, as she has been the past six years.

More than a decade before her involvement in Relay for Life, Tormoehlen lost both her father and grandfather to cancer in a single year, she said.

It was 1992, almost 25 years ago, and there wasn’t as much information available on the various types of cancer and treatment options, Tormoehlen said.

It was hard for patients to locate the best care for their individual needs, and that uncertainty and the personal loss drained her own confidence, she said.

Afterward, Tormoehlen said she never wanted anyone to feel as powerless as she did that year.

She is not alone.

Five of her 25 teammates are cancer survivors, along with another coworker whose son recently overcame leukemia, she said.

Cancer affects people of all ages, and it touched Adrianna Webster when she was 7.

The girl was diagnosed with an aggressive tumor on her left kidney, and doctors also discovered spots on her lungs and liver.

She under went nine months of chemotherapy and a year of monthly radiation treatments.

Now a survivor at age 14, she too will be participating in the relay.

She agrees with Tormoehlen that cancer is a frightening experience. But coming together for an event such as Relay for Life gives survivors a sense of control which they lacked during treatment.

Something as simple as volunteering to paint faces, which Webster will be doing during the relay, is extremely empowering, she said.

Since Tormoehlen lost her family members more than two decades ago, cancer rates have declined by 22 percent as more advanced prevention and treatments have been discovered, Toburen said.

But there is still work to be done, she said.

Even with all the support from local efforts such as the Columbus Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society predicts 35,180 new cases of cancer — with lung and breast cancers the most common — and 13,560 cancer-related deaths in Indiana during 2016.

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What: Columbus Relay For Life

When: May 14 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with survivor breakfast starting at 9:30 a.m.

Where: Fourth Street between Jackson and Franklin Streets

What to wear: People are encouraged to wear purple, the official color

More information: If interested in participating or forming a team, visit Registration is accepted through the day of the event.