Kim Kanmacher still remembers how it felt when she rang the bell.
“It was an incredible feeling,” Kanmacher said Thursday as she was named the honorary survivor for the 2019 Relay for Life.
“It was a day of celebration” that was shared by everyone who could hear the bell. Everyone knew what it meant.
She had completed her cancer treatments, and “today I am healthy.”
So healthy, in fact, that she is training for a half marathon in April in Nashville, Tenn.
Her breast cancer is in remission, and last year, to celebrate, she participated in a five-kilometre run in Boston during the Boston Marathon weekend.
And even though she stopped and talked to people lining the route, cheering on the participants in the run, she still put in a personal best.
“My life is getting back to normal.”
Being named honorary survivor gives Kanmacher a chance to be able to tell her story during the five-hour event June 21 at Canadian Forces Base North Bay.
Her message of hope is one she wants to share.
“I hope I can inspire others not to give up. I want them to know they are not alone, and there are people who will support them.”
She is particularly happy with the results of the Cancer Care Close to Home initiative at the North Bay Regional Health Centre. Kanmacher was able to get all her chemotherapy at the local facility, and was even able to talk with her oncologist through the Telemedicine program here.
“We are blessed to have that available,” she said as friends, family and supporters, as well as some of the volunteers and supporters of the Relay for Life crowded into Active Running and Therapy Centre for the official launch.
“This is a celebratory, hopeful event,” Tracy Davis, chairwoman of the Relay for Life committee, said.
“This is about survivors, and about raising money for treatments.”
Davis has been involved with Relay for Life for a few years, spurred on by her sister’s battle with cancer.
“I felt it was something I needed to do,” she says, saying the army of volunteers who work behind and in front of the curtains deserves all the credit for its success.
In the 18 years the event has been held in North Bay, more than $3.5 million has been raised.
“They are extremely hope-filled,” she says. “They all have someone close to them affected by cancer.”
Last year, more than 500 people participated.
“I want a thousand people this year,” Davis says.
“Come out. Register a team. Be a part of something important in North Bay.”
Doug Bies, the honorary survivor for last year’s event, passed on the baton to Kanmacher, saying his experience in 2018 was “fantastic. It was an awe-inspiring experience.”
Although Bies is comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, the emotion at the event last year was beyond anything he expected.
“I choked up” when he addressed the crowd, but he shared his experiences in two battles with cancer.
“But you realize that there’s a fantastic team out there,” he said, crediting specifically the local office of the Canadian Cancer Society.
“Don’t be scared of the experience you’ll go through,” he says. “The treatment, the waiting, the treatments, the processes you have to go through.
“You’re not alone.”