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June 11, 2013

Caregivers a key part of Relay for Life

PLATTSBURGH — A cancer diagnosis jump-starts one of the biggest challenges a person can face in a lifetime.

The need to stay positive, active and determined are all major components that a cancer patient must embrace to better meet the challenge.

But those with cancer seldom face those challenges alone. Caregivers become an integral part of the treatment plan for anyone who is battling the life-changing diagnosis.

This year’s annual Relay for Life is Friday and Saturday at the Clinton County Fairgrounds, and will feature a special tribute to the caregivers — the loved ones, friends and even neighbors — who assist the patient with everyday needs.

“It really makes you sit back and think about life,” said Ann Thurber, this year’s chairperson for the Relay for Life. She was a caregiver for both her father-in-law, Gordon Thurber, and her brother, Jan Brickey.

“When you can share your experiences in a group with an event like Relay, you realize that we are all hugely impacted by cancer.”

When her father-in-law became sick, Thurber returned to her hometown in Northfield, Vt., to provide care and comfort for him up to his death in 2008. That experience influenced her to become involved in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life the next season.

“I’ve become very passionate about American Cancer Society events,” she said. “Once I joined, I can’t get out of it. I love it, love the people who deal with (cancer) every day. They have so much to teach us.”

Cancer and its traumatic impact on people became even more apparent to Thurber when her brother was diagnosed with advanced head and neck cancer, and she traveled again to Northfield to become his caregiver over the final weeks of his life.

“I told my boss that I needed to be with him, and he understood,” she said of her opportunity to spend that end time with Brickey, who died in 2010 at the age of 54.

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