Red Deer cancer survivor Kelly Fairholm said she’s excited for this weekend’s Relay For Life, which raises money for cancer research. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)

Cancer survivor helps organize Central Alberta’s Relay For Life

Red Deer’s Kelly Fairholm was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2007

Fighting cancer is one of the hardest things Red Deer’s Kelly Fairholm has ever had to do.

The 59-year-old was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2007.

“I think I went into shock,” Fairholm said. “I was numb – it was nothing I was expected and I didn’t fit the demographic for that kind of cancer.

“You truly believe it’s not going to happen to you.”

Fairholm said the treatment, which included 24-hour chemotherapy for six weeks, was tough.

“I went through a whole range emotions,” she said. “I didn’t want to die, but I knew that was a possibility so that was really tough.”

“My hair got thin, but never fell completely out. I had nausea … and I was exhausted constantly,” Fairholm said.

Her friends and family helped carry her through the tough times, she added.

“They sort of became the focus as I fought the cancer,” she said.

Fairholm’s last treatments were spring 2008. She said when her doctor told her the cancer was out of her body, she didn’t believe him.

Fairholm said she still gets tests done regularly to ensure the cancer does not return.

“I still always get a bit nervous before the tests, worried it will come back. You kind of always live in that shadow,” she said.

While receiving treatment, Fairholm learned about the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Relay For Life event in Red Deer, which raises money for cancer research.

“It’s a great event and a huge fundraiser for the (Canadian) Cancer Society. They do really great work with lots of good programs,” she said.

Fairholm has participated in the relay before, but this year she’s on the organizing committee serving as honorary co-chair.

“It’s an emotional event but it’s also really uplifting,” she said. “It’s all about the fight and doesn’t focus on just the horrible part of it.”

In addition to the relay there will be a survivor’s lunch, vendors, live bands and the lighting of the luminaries, where people can light a candle to honour people who have lost their lives to cancer.

“It’s incredible to see the support from others but it also shows how prevalent this is,” Fairholm said. “Seeing that many people at the survivor’s lunch and at the Relay For Life, it’s clear that it touches everybody.”

Relay For Life is Saturday from noon to midnight at CrossRoads Church. The goal is to raise $50,000.

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