For Bordertown local Paula Blackwell, Relay For Life is more than an event. Since first taking part in 2011 it has been a chance to come together with her community to celebrate, remember and fight back, while giving her and her family an opportunity to heal from their own cancer experience.
Cancer has impacted Paula’s life since she was a baby—first with her aunt’s diagnosis, then her grandfather’s, and most recently her own mothers breast cancer diagnosis in 2007.
“My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer three days after my sister’s wedding. She had two surgeries, which included a partial mastectomy and removal her lymph nodes. My mum’s a very proud, strong woman and didn’t want her family to know the angst and worry that she was going through, so she kept her feelings to herself. I really struggled with this as I wanted to help and didn’t know how or what I could do. That’s when I found Cancer Council 13 11 20. It was a god send and really helped me through such a hard time, numerous times. The phone line was brilliant for me as I needed someone to talk to who wasn’t my family and could help explain while listening to my concerns,” Paula explains.
Since then, Paula has also had more family members and friends receive cancer diagnoses and undergo treatment, giving her more fuel to support Cancer Council SA through Relay For Life.
“My first Relay was in 2011 when I was encouraged to join a friend’s team,” Paula says.
“My second Relay was in 2017 when I entered a team of my own with my mum as a breast cancer survivor. We called the team CURE—meaning Courage, Understanding, Resilience and Encouragement. It was an amazing experience for myself and my family. Mum was very grateful to have her husband, three kids and their spouses, as well as her eight grandchildren attending.
“Then, in 2019 our event lead stepped down, so I took over the reigns with the help and support of my family. That year we raised an incredible amount of money—almost $70,000.”
With a few delays over the past few years, Paula and her committee are looking forward to bringing Relay back to life in Bordertown this October with a Halloween themed event.
“We have a brilliant group of people on our committee varying in age and demographic. To the outside we might look like an odd group but we’re a brilliant team and are enjoying raising funds for Cancer Council SA,” she says.
“Fundraising activities have been very creative and fun including bake sales, raffle ticket sales, Murder Mystery Night, Colour Run and we recently held a Slime and Colour Run which raised $3,500 and was very messy but lots of fun!”
For Paula, there is so much to love about Relay For Life and she says it raises funds for such a worthy cause.
“I love the community support, the bonding, the vulnerability and incredible bravery and strength that is demonstrated as people share their personal stories and support each other,” she says.
“I love the committee who are a lot of fun and passionate about helping raise funds for such a worthy cause.
“I love meeting new people and getting to know people more intimately, it’s amazing how we all have a story to tell.
“I love the fact that the Relay gives people the space to be vulnerable, emotional, happy, sad and supported. It’s a place that you can share your experiences, honour your past loved ones and raise funds to help those undergoing diagnosis. It’s a very healing process to join and participate in a Relay.”
For any South Australians thinking about stepping out with their local Relay For Life event, she says “just do it!”.
“Make contact with your local committee or reach out to me and come to our Bordertown Relay this October—we won’t turn you away.”
To register and step out with your local Relay For Life or to join Paula at the upcoming Bordertown Relay For Life, click here.