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Relay for Life is an act of solidarity, not just a fundraiser

Kenyon’s Relay for Life committee members respond to allegations against the ACS event.

Last week, the Collegian published an opinion piece (“Instead of Relay, choose a worthier cause,” April 6) that called into question Relay For Life, Kenyon’s largest annual fundraiser on behalf of the American Cancer Society (ACS). But as Amanda Bolton ’19 points out: “Relay’s strength is its ability to bring people of all walks of life together, in celebration of the people who are surviving cancer and in memoriam of those who fought and lost,” not the money the organization raises.

We understand not everyone will want to support the ACS — no nonprofit is perfect — but it is important for the larger fight against cancer, and us as advocates for Relay, to make sure the community is aware of the factual inaccuracies in that op-ed when making decisions about supporting Kenyon’s Relay or the ACS overall. To the Relay for Life committee, the April 6th op-ed questioned supporting Relay and the ACS at a time when our committee was hoping to be supported most.

To begin, we wish to address the author’s claim that “Encouraging mammograms is deeply troubling because it has been proven that mammographies in non-high risk women, especially those under the age of 50, do not lead to an increased breast cancer survival rate and, due to radiation, may even cause cancer.” The most recent recommendation by the ACS says differently: “The ACS recommends that women with an average risk of breast cancer should undergo regular screening mammography starting at age 45 (strong recommendation). Women aged 45 to 54 should be screened annually (qualified recommendation).”

While mammograms do produce radiation, it is a misunderstanding that one screening could cause cancer. Ultimately, it is up to an individual’s doctor, not an ACS recommendation, to determine whether someone should continue to receive those tests. The ACS hopes to help detect breast cancer in those who may not have known otherwise. Bailey Dominguez ’17 states: “Yearly mammograms are what allowed my mom to live seven years instead of seven months.”

Additionally, the op-ed author wrote, “The ACS encourages people to stop smoking as cancer prevention … further perpetuat[ing] myths related to lung cancer. About 60 to 65 percent of all new lung cancer diagnoses are among people who have never smoked or are former smokers and 10 to 15 percent of lung cancers are found in those who have never smoked.”

If 10 to 15 percent of cases are found in non-smokers, what does that say about the other 85 to 90 percent? While genetic predisposition-causing cancers are still being researched, the ACS has the opportunity to focus on stopping smoking-related lung cancer. According to a 2013 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, “quitting before the age of 40 reduces chances of dying prematurely from a smoking-related disease by 90 percent, and quitting by age 54 still reduces chances by two-thirds. Even current smokers who quit after being diagnosed with cancer are better able to heal and respond to treatment, reducing the chance of death from some cancers by up to 40 percent.” This is why the ACS fights to stop smoking — it is proven to cause cancer, and the effects of quitting are immediate.

We invite individuals at Kenyon to make educated decisions about the organizations theysupport.  If you still choose not to support the ACS, we support your decision and offer this list of other organizations that provide more cancer-type specific support: www.charitywatch.org/top-rated-charities.

For us, Relay is about more than the money ACS raises. Zoë Bergman ’19 urges: “Try and find another event that remembers, honors, supports and celebrates more people. It is not just about the money; rather, it is about the mission. The mission to provide research, education, advocacy, support and service.”

Another committee member shared her experience as a survivor and described why Relay is so important: “I participate in Relay for Life to honor my nurses and caregivers whose colorful scrubs could easily have been mistaken for capes through the eyes of a three-year-old. They were my first line of defense, the front-line soldiers. They worked hard, they slept little, and they did everything they could to make sure I was comfortable and happy. I mean it when I say that, without their hard work, I wouldn’t be here to speak to you today.”

Regardless of which organizations you support, Bolton said: “There is no method that can quantify 300 people walking a silent lap in solidarity with survivors to someone who is currently fighting cancer.”

That is what the ACS and Relay for Life do.

Respectfully,

Amanda Bolton ’19, Zoë Bergman ’19, Bailey Dominguez ’17, Emily Hogoboom ’17, and Sarah Lloyd ’17

Members of the Kenyon Relay for Life Committee

Amanda Bolton ’19 is an English and political science major from Chicago, Ill. Contact her at boltona@kenyon.edu; Zoë Bergman ’19 is an economics and international studies major from Ligonier, Pa. Contact her at bergmanz@kenyon.edu; Bailey Dominguez ’17 is an economics major from Indianapolis, Ind. Contact her at dominguezb@kenyon.edu; Emily Hogoboom ’17 is a political science major from Mendham, N.J. Contact her at hogoboome@kenyon.edu; and Sarah Lloyd ’17 is a history and art history major from Hightstown, N.J. Contact her at lloyds@kenyon.edu.