Tears were flowing so hard that Doreen Cropley couldn't see clearly to walk the track at McLeod Athletic Park Friday night.
The 66-year-old Cloverdale woman is a long-time Relay for Lifer. But last weekend's 12-hour fundraiser - which sees hundreds of volunteers walk laps around the track from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. - held major significance for Cropley.
Since participating in last year's relay, she was transformed from a longtime fundraiser to a cancer survivor. And that reality hit hard during the opening ceremonies of the Langley event.
"I'm a mess," she said, wiping away a few more tears shortly after the relay commenced.
"You fight the fight for everyone else and then suddenly you're fighting for yourself," Cropley told the Langley Advance.
She was one of almost one hundred cancer survivors invited to take part in the survivor's lap at the Langley relay this year.
"It really hit home tonight, doing that lap," she said, admitting it didn't seem real until the relay.
Cropley first began particpating in relay when it started in Langley eight years ago.
"I had five friends that first year with breast cancer and I did it for them, never dreaming I'd be there myself one day," Cropley said.
A few years later, she began a new team named New Beginnings and since then she and her daffodilcostume-clad group have consistently been among the largest fundraisers at the Canadian Cancer Society event.
They fundraise approximately 150 days out of the year, holding car washes, hot dog sales, strawberry teas, craft fairs, hockey raffles and just about anything else they can think to generate bucks.
This year, the team raised more than $24,000, bringing their tally during the team's five-year history to more than $138,000.
There was a strong desire by Cropley and her fellow teammates to raise even more than ever this year, given the group leader's own brush with the disease.
Cropley's annual trip to volunteer at the now defunct Merritt Mountain Music Festival last July took an unexpected turn when she was rushed to hospital with belly ache.
Almost immediately, she was diagnosed with diverticulitis, then sent to Kamloops for a CT scan that also confirmed she had kidney cancer.
The diagnosis came July 7, and the surgery happened Aug. 22, where doctors took out her kidney.
Fortunately, she said, the cancer was contained to her kidney, meaning she didn't have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation. She's now nine-months clear and going strong.
But the retired hospital porter admits the recovery was long, and a car accident last fall simply added to the list of ills that plagued her life last year.
But that was last year. This is a new year and a new beginning, Cropley insisted, crediting her friends and loved ones for helping her triumph.
"I have many, many angels looking after me and there all different shapes and sizes and colours," she said, looking around at many members of the New Beginnings team who were instrumental in her recovery.
"I had so much support. If people had half that amount, they'd be lucky- And, if I toot my own horn, that's okay," said the mother of two, and grandmother to five.
"I'm one of the luckiest people in the world because I have that," Cropley said.
If there's a message this cancer survivor could share with the world, she said it's not just one thing.
"Don't take life for granted- if you sense something, do something about it- and every day is a good day. If it isn't make it so."
@ Copyright 2013