Fundraiser in May to fight cancer

Published 9:21 pm Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cancer has destroyed countless lives as people fight the disease every day, including one of Suffolk’s own.

Oakland Christian United Church of Christ Pastor Greg Ryan’s acute myeloid leukemia returned in February after a period of remission. He has undergone more chemotherapy at the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, N.C., where he has received treatment since his initial May 2016 diagnosis.

His oncologist said this latest development was indicative of the challenges in treating all forms of cancer.

Email newsletter signup

“One of the big challenges of cancers in general is that sometimes when you treat them you get rid of the weakest cells,” Duke Cancer Institute oncologist Thomas LeBlanc said. “You hope they are gone, but because they were strong enough to survive the treatments you already gave, they repopulate.”

He said that more research is required to improve treatments.

“We really need more research efforts to improve our tools to fight leukemia and other cancers of the blood,” he said.

The American Cancer Society raises money for this research with its international Relay for Life events. The Relay for Life of Suffolk will be May 19 at Nansemond River High School from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Teams will raise money by walking or running at the school track field. Relay for Life community manager Tara Asare said 45 teams have signed up so far, with the goal of raising $200,000 total. Volunteers have also arranged live music and activities for adults and children.

The money will go toward cancer research, patient care programs and education and prevention initiatives.

“I really want to focus on helping teams meet their fundraising goals,” Asare said. “It’s my job to make sure that they are doing the best that they can and they’re getting the guidance they need.”

The luminaria ceremony around 9 p.m. will have volunteers place thousands of decorated bags with candles at the track field. Bags will be arranged on the bleachers to form the words “hope” and “cure.” Bags and candles can be purchased online and by phone in advance for $10.

Asare said this ceremony honors loved ones that have died from cancer and those still fighting the disease.

“It’s a really special moment for everyone,” she said. “You get a second to remember why you’re doing it, and that’s to find a cure for cancer.”

Asare lost her mother to cancer when she was 7 years old. Feeling “helpless” as a child, she became more motivated as she got older to help others affected by cancer. She started volunteering as an Old Dominion University student before working for the American Cancer Society.

“It was something that I always witnessed destroying peoples’ lives,” she said “I really wanted to make a difference.”

Go online at or call 493-7972 to donate, register or find out more information.