Running a Relay for Life

Student’s cancer fight spurs leadership of annual campus fundraiser

In remission from acute promyelocytic leukemia for almost a year, third-year BA student Samantha Smith-Moskal is chairing this year's Relay for Life. Photo by Martin Schwalbe

U of G student Samantha Smith-Moskal knows first-hand what it’s like to battle cancer. At this time last year, she was still dealing with some severe side effects of her fight against acute promyelocytic leukemia. But this month, she will join with others from U of G and raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society during Relay for Life March 27 and 28.

“Having cancer was the worst experience of my life,” says Smith-Moskal, a third-year French studies student who is chairing this year’s event. “I want as few people as possible to go through it.”

Relay for Life is a 12-hour non-competitive event that runs in the Gryphon Dome from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. The fundraising initiative takes place across Canada and the United States at various times throughout the year. U of G was the first university to organize a relay, and this is the sixth year for the event. Guelph currently holds the record for the most money raised by a post-secondary institution.

“This is my first year participating,” Smith-Moskal says, adding that she was inspired to take part because a friend participated on her behalf last year. The U of G committee is made up of students from various years and majors, “so it’s a great way of bringing people together.”

She was diagnosed with cancer in fall 2008 during a semester abroad in France. “I noticed a couple of bruises I couldn’t remember getting.” The bruising intensified, and she was eventually diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia.

“It’s one of the more easily treatable types of cancer, with a cure rate of up to 95 per cent,” she says. “But I still had to endure three rounds of chemotherapy, and I had complications such as a blood clot in my lung, hypercalcemia (an excess of calcium that can be fatal), infections and pneumonia.” She’s been in remission for nearly a year.

The U of G committee is looking for participants, volunteers and cancer survivors, says Smith-Moskal. Registration is $10 each and can be done online at http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR?fr_id=6840&pg=entry. For more information, send email to relay@uoguelph.ca .