Queen’s Relay for Life ramps up on-campus activities

November draws awareness to lung and pancreatic cancers

Image supplied by: Queen's Relay for Life
The club’s initiatives culminate in the Relay for Life main event held in March.

For the 17th year in a row, Queen’s Relay for Life is raising awareness about cancer while fundraising for research.

Queen’s Relay for Life, the Queen’s chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society fundraiser, is ramping up on-campus initiatives in preparation for their main event in March. Since November is lung, stomach, and pancreatic cancer awareness month, the group is focused on raising awareness about the dangers of these specific cancers.

For Brooklyn Burger-Jacobs, HealthSci ’26, this month is particularly important.

“In August of 2020, my mom was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. That’s a terminal diagnosis,” Burger-Jacobs, who is the ceremonies and awareness coordinator for Queen’s Relay for Life, said in an interview with The Journal.

Pancreatic cancer is difficult to screen for, and the initial symptoms are ambiguous, making it especially difficult to spot. Burger-Jacobs’ mother experienced symptoms for over a year before she was diagnosed, and passed away in 2021.

“Losing your mom at 16 is an incredibly difficult thing to undergo. She was my best friend; she was my biggest inspiration. Losing her was very tough,” Burger-Jacobs said.

Her mother’s optimism throughout her cancer journey inspired Burger-Jacobs, and she joined Queen’s Relay for Life to raise awareness amongst the Queen’s community.

Two weeks ago, Burger-Jacobs organized the Lumies on Uni event for Queen’s Relay for Life. Participants placed tea lights in decorated paper bags and lit up University Ave. outside of Stauffer Library. Passersby were welcome to decorate a bag and learn more about cancer.

“She lives on with me in everything I do for Relay, and she lives on in others as well. I just thought it was very important to tell her story,” Burger-Jacobs said.

Half of the Canadian population will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. Queen’s Relay for Life’s mission is to make students aware of the barriers to cancer screening and how the Queen’s community is impacted.

Queen’s Relay for Life hosts events throughout the year to raise awareness and fundraise for the cause. This year, the club hopes to raise $100,000 for cancer research. Events planned for this year include a speaker series and a musical night at Clark Hall Pub.

Relay for Life’s main event will be held on March 22, 2024.

The event will be hosted at the ARC, starting at 7 p.m., with activities taking place throughout the night until sunrise at 7 a.m. the next morning. The Relay is meant to be symbolic of cancer patients’ journeys and experiences.

The event balances remembrance with active games for participants. As the night goes on, participants play dodgeball and do Zumba to help them stay awake. Last year, Queen’s Relay for Life surpassed a milestone of  $1 million fundraised over the past 16 years.

For Daniel Wang, HealthSci ’26, Queen’s Relay for Life head ceremonies and awareness coordinator, his favorite part of the relay is from midnight to 1 a.m. when participants light candles to honour cancer survivors and those lost in the battle against cancer.

“It was a pretty special moment when a lot of the participants and some of the survivors went up to the front and shared their story, which was pretty inspiring,” Wang said.

Wang’s mother passed away from colon cancer in 2012, which is what motivated him to join Queen’s Relay for Life in his first year.

Last month, Wang’s grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer. From an early age, Wang remembers her telling him to eat healthy meals and exercise. Wang finds the stigma around lung cancer frustrating.

“Lung cancer is commonly associated with smoking, but not all lung cancer patients smoke, and that negative connotation can be harmful,” Wang said in an interview with The Journal.

Over reading week, Wang had Thanksgiving dinner with his grandmother and was reminded she’s the healthiest person he knows.

“I think it’s a testament to how unforgiving cancer is and how it can affect anyone,” Wang said.

Long-time member of Queen’s Relay for Life and Co-Chair Anya Aaron, HealthSci ’25, told The Journal the relay is about more than awareness and fundraising.

“The sense of strangers coming together and supporting one another and creating this beautiful environment where everyone is kind and friendly and contributing to the same end goal […] there’s no words to describe what that does for you as an individual,” Aaron said.

Corrections

November 25, 2023

A previous version of this article listed Daniel Wang as a Comm ’26 instead of a HealthSci ’26 student. Incorrect information appeared in the Nov. 17 issue of The Queen’s Journal.

The Journal regrets the error

Tags

Awareness, cancer, Events, relay for life

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