For Kim Lessue, the Adelaide Relay For Life is more than an inspiring event. In recent years, Kim has lost family members to cancer and witnessed impact it has had on everyone around them. Becoming a part of the Relay For Life family has become an integral way for Kim to honour her loved ones and make a difference to others.
“We first joined Rob’s team who relay in honour of a truly amazing woman, our Aunty Cheryl Ryan, who lost her fight to cancer after a 17-year-long battle on my birthday, 3 October 2014. She was such an inspirational woman. Every step of the way, she had the bravest, strongest fighting spirit. Even when she was feeling horrible after treatments, she still managed to smile and make everyone around her stay positive,” Kim remembers.
In the first year of joining Relay For Life, Kim found that it helped greatly with the grief of losing Cheryl.
“In a time when you feel like you can’t do anything, being part of making a difference for others was something we could hold on to. Whether it’s rain, hail or shine, everyone gets in there and you feel everything at the event — it’s physically exhausting, but it’s also fun and exciting — especially because we’re such a competitive bunch!” Kim laughs.
Sadly, the following year on 26 June 2015, Kim’s mother-in-law, Trudie Lessue, passed away from pancreatic cancer.
“Trudie was such a beautiful lady! She was a proud mum who didn’t want anyone to know how much she was suffering. She was a tough fighter right to the end, but just one year after her diagnosis, we said goodbye, and it all really hit us. These amazingly beautiful women were gone.”
Now in her eighth year of Relay For Life, Kim is driven by knowing what a difference facilities like the Cancer Council Lodges can make.
“In the past 12 months, two of our friends both lost their children at just 12-years-old; and the other, just eight-years-old. It was heart wrenching, but one thing that really helped my girlfriend from high school was the support of the Cancer Council Lodges.
“Living in rural South Australia meant long trips away from home while her son underwent treatment and appointments, and I know how much it helped to have a nurturing place to stay.”
Kim and her family are also driven by the thought of contributing to life-saving research.
“Cancer affects so many families and it’s just not fair. For us, it’s all about helping in the worldwide effort to find a cure. We’re playing a small part but if more people do the same, I know we can get there.”
The Relay For Life event itself has become a family tradition for Kim, and an important part of honouring loved ones lost and supporting those still fighting.
“It’s such a beautiful event for all ages — kids, adults, the elderly. Even though it can be hard, my father-in-law has come out with us to pay tribute to his wife. The candlelight ceremony is hard for him, my husband and his brother in particular, but being there to support each other is so important.”
And it’s a full-family affair, with Kim’s children, Josh (12) and Chloe (8) taking part in the fundraising in the lead up and walking the actual event with the team.
“When we started, we were pushing Chloe around the track in a pram and Josh was just little. These days, they’re taking initiative — Josh got his two best mates to join our team, and Chloe is making teddy bears to sell,” Kim says proudly.
Over the years, Kim and the team have held many different fundraising activities. “We’ve done straightforward activities, like selling Cadbury chocolates, garage sales, and cooking at the events. We recently held a fantastic ‘Clothes Swap For Cancer’ event, where we charged $31 per person to fill up a bag of preloved clothes, shoes, jewellery and handbags — all donated by our family and friends.”
It was such a success, that Kim and the team had to extend the event to the following weekend.
“The support we received was overwhelming! We had bags and bags of beautiful items donated and everyone went home loving their new clothes and goodies. We also offered drinks, grazing platters, and had a raffle and door prizes as little extras for our guests. With a little bit of planning and a lot of love and donations, we raised just over $1500!”
Today, Kim continues to fundraise with her friends and family in honour of the special people they have lost, and also for her aunty who is currently undergoing treatment.
“So many of our nearest and dearest have been impacted by cancer and we will keep fighting for them. I’m often overwhelmed by how much people are willing to give or donate when we explain what we’re doing and why. And we try to make it as fun as possible for the people who support us.”
Kim has no plans of slowing down, with experience giving her so much in return.
“I just love everything about Relay For Life. As hard and emotional as it is, it’s such a beautiful thing when everyone comes together. It’s lots of effort but so much reward.”
The Adelaide Relay For Life will be held from Saturday 9 to Sunday 10 April.
You can still join Kim and register a team by visiting cancersa.org.au/get-involved/events/relay-for-life/. Or you can show your support for Kim and her team by donating here.