Led by bagpipes, survivors and supporters round the luminaries placed at Marine Park during the Luminary Walk on June 8 in Salmon Arm. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

Luminary Walk provides solace for victims of cancer

Candles lit, tears shed both by survivors and by those who have lost loved ones

The setting was beautiful, the words poignant.

Despite the loss of the community’s longstanding Relay for Life, people gathered in Marine Park Saturday night, June 8, for the Luminary Walk, to honour those who have lived beyond cancer and to remember those who did not.

To the music of guitarist and singer Patrick Ryley, which was appropriately upbeat at times and other times sombre, people chatted, sat silently or created their luminaries.

Behind the stage hung a large white banner defining courage.

“Sometimes… courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow”

Once the white bags had been decorated with names of loved ones and messages of love, little holes and heart shapes were punched in the paper to allow light through. A canned food donation for the food bank was placed in each bag to keep it from blowing away, as well as a candle.

The luminaries were placed in a large circle on the lawn in front of the bandshell at Marine Park.

Read more: Cancer society explains why Shuswap Relay for Life cancelled

Read more: 2018 – Salmon Arm Relay for Life still running strong

As the gathering of people awaited dusk, Kristal Burgess presented a cheque for $4,800 to Missy Blair, co-president of the Canadian Cancer Society in Salmon Arm. Burgess explained the Rock the Dress fundraiser for breast cancer has raised an impressive $67,000 for the society over the past 10 years.

Brenda Kurtz, longtime volunteer with Salmon Arm’s Relay for Life, chair of the Luminary Walk committee and captain of the Walkers and Talkers team, pointed out that although the community no longer has a Relay for Life, opportunities for raising money still exist. She said her group raised $580 through a spa night and thanked Bonnie Ward of Aqua Soleil Body & Wellness Spa for her support. The group also did ball washing and club cleaning at the Spalding Cup golf tournament at the Salmon Arm Golf Club, raising $621.

Valerie Dean then took the stage, saying she had the privilege of introducing her friend, classmate and fellow survivor Tina Dresen.

In a touching and emotional speech, Dresen spoke of her pre-cancer belief that she had all the time in the world.

However, she found she was having to call in sick to work more and more, just not having the strength to get up and going. She said she kept dropping jobs and her abdomen grew bigger.

Finally, although she’d been too frightened to get checked out, she went to the doctor.

Several tests later she learned she had a large cancerous tumour in her abdomen.

“My mind went numb, like someone had pushed the pause button,” she says of hearing the diagnosis.

She later learned she was facing Stage 4 ovarian cancer. Treatment included several rounds of chemotherapy as well as a full hysterectomy.

Read more: 2014 – Relay for Life – new format, same goal

Read more: 2018 – Salmon Arm braves the windy weather support Relay for Life

Dresen speaks highly of the Salmon Arm oncology team, saying her treatment days became a day she looked forward to, thanks to the supportive and upbeat nurses.

She also expressed appreciation for her doctors, for the cancer society providing wigs, for Hope Air offering free flights to the Coast for treatment or, in her case, paying for WestJet because the air was too thick with wildfire smoke for the small private plane.

Dresen left her audience with a message.

“Life is more important than chasing money and waiting to live.”

As the evening drew on, survivors and then those who have lost loved ones to cancer walked under an archway of dragon boat paddles held by paddlers before heading around the large circle of luminaries.

With rain kindly holding off and birds soaring overhead, the luminary candles were lit and a moment of silence was held in honour.


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Tina Dresen, survivor, tells the inspiring story of her journey and treatment during the Luminary Walk evening at Marine Park in Salmon Arm on June 8. (Kayleigh Seibel/Salmon Arm Observer)

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