Bunco Babes fight back at Loomis Relay For Life

By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Editor
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Participating in the first Loomis American Cancer Society Relay For Life started out as a way to honor our friends who had battled cancer. The 24-hour event, held Saturday at the Del Oro High School track, enlisted relay teams who committed to raising funds and agreed to keep at least one team member walking the track the entire time. The event raised more than $21,000 for cancer education, programs and research. Our Relay team wanted to celebrate the journey and survivorship of four friends. These women are members of our Bunco group and have been diagnosed with cancer. Our group has gathered monthly since our now high-school-age children were in kindergarten. Over the years, we’ve had babies, talked about diapers and preschool, and agonized over our children’s junior-high drama. Now, we chat about teenage dances, drivers’ licenses, college choices and cancer. Cancer slipped into our conversations a few years ago when one of our players, Rene Schmit, of Loomis, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Then two years ago, Susan Kidwell, of Loomis, learned she had melanoma. Not long after, Sheree Palma, of Loomis, discovered she had breast cancer after a routine mammogram. Just a few months ago, Sally Sutter, of Rocklin, learned she had salivary cancer after her dentist felt a lump under her tongue. In our eagerness to celebrate and honor our friends, we created a team, dubbed it “Bunco Babes,” and set about raising money. Then, in a gut-wrenching turn of events, we learned that Susan Kidwell’s melanoma had returned and spread. Relay took on new meaning for us and became one of the few ways we could help Susan fight. We learned through Relay there is always hope. The motto of “Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back” reminds us that we are not helpless in the face of cancer. When Relay opened Saturday morning, it was led by cancer survivors who included three of our teammates. During the day, a festive atmosphere pervaded. Bands played, a free dance class was held and activities and food were available. But, as evening approached, volunteers started placing hundreds of paper bags around the track in preparation for the luminaria ceremony. Each bag bore the name of a loved one and honored those who had battled cancer or remembered those who had been taken by the disease. As darkness fell, the luminarias were lit, and, in the stadium bleachers, the word “hope” was spelled out in huge letters using rows of the light-filled bags. A bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” and led dozens of hushed participants around the darkened track. It was a time for reflection and remembrance. After the ceremony, the walkers plodded on through the night, even amidst unseasonable wind, rain and cold temperatures. In the morning, participants were tasked with finding a way to fight back. Sharing what I have learned is my way of fighting back. I discovered that cancer is an equal-opportunity disease – striking the rich and poor, young and old, male and female – it does not discriminate. Those dreaded words, “You have cancer,” are heard too often and too soon, by too many. I also learned we cannot be beaten by cancer and we can make a difference. Early detection can make you a survivor. Getting a mammogram, pap smear, colonoscopy or skin cancer exam can save your life or the life of someone you love. Making lifestyle changes that put you at risk for cancer could save your life. Quitting smoking, losing weight, eating healthier, limiting sun exposure and exercising can help. You can also become a part of next year’s Relay. Donations for 2011 Loomis Relay are still being accepted and can be made online at