In her first year as event coordinator for Relay for Life of Puyallup, Cara Kamel didn’t need to look very far for motivation.
“I’ve had so much cancer in my family, and I wanted to help put an end to cancer,” she said.
Kamel is off to a good start so far, as more than 400 participants making up 45 teams have signed up for Saturday’s event at Sparks Stadium, which runs from noon on Saturday until noon on Sunday.
The theme for this year’s event is Relay Road Trip – Destination Cure, and organizers’ fundraising goal is $175,000.
When individual teams set their tents up for the event, folks can expect to see some unique displays, such as Hawaii or Disney World, Kamel said. Food vendors will also be on hand, and there will be non-stop activities as well.
Tracy Kiyabu, publicity and advertising chair for the event, is a cancer survivor and has been working hard to make Saturday’s event a success.
“We gear up as soon as the relay ends the previous year,” she said.
Puyallup Mayor John Knutsen presented a proclamation declaring the week of June 22-29 as Relay for Life Week at the council’s June 17 meeting.
Maggie Eastman and her family will be on hand for this year’s Relay for Life. Eastman was diagnosed on Jan. 22 with stage 4 breast cancer.
“It has been a whirlwind,” Eastman said. “Cancer turns your life upside down.”
Eastman and her doctor had to be proactive when she discovered her cancer. Tests showed no cancer present but the two pushed for more in-depth tests. Finally, a biopsy confirmed what Eastman already knew — she had cancer.
“My goal is to educate people,” she said. “If you know in your heart something is not right — it is not right.”
Eastman has four chemotherapy treatments left and is looking forward to her last one. Her father, Rick Eastman, has accompanied her to every one of her treatments and she hasn’t missed one day of work as a dispatcher at South Sound 911.
“One thing about my job is that I don’t deal with the public face to face, just on the phone, so no one notices the physical differences,” she said.
Sister Jennifer Johnson and mother Mary Eastman are her biggest supporters.
“We’ve made this a family affair,” Johnson said.
They have set up a Facebook page titled “I’m in 4 Maggie.”
The family said there are a number of people praying for them, and their team has raised more than $1,000 for the Relay for Life event.
“This event is grass-roots funding to raise money to produce results,” Rick Eastman said. “That is amazing.”
When asked how she will feel when the luminaries light up at 10 p.m. Saturday night representing people who are fighting cancer or people that are being remembered, Eastman became emotional.
“It will be tough,” she said, fighting through tears. “Whether someone is still here or not, their light never goes out. It will be peaceful and amazing to be in the company of so many people who have fought this.”
Eastman’s last PET scan showed no evidence of cancer.
“Remission feels pretty good,” she said.Joan Cronk is a freelance reporter for the Herald.