Preeti Shastri will join fellow cancer survivors at the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life at UC.
Preeti Shastri, a UC freshman, is looking forward to walking in the Survivor Lap at UC’s largest student-organized community service event on campus. The Relay For Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society at the University of Cincinnati begins at 5:45 p.m., Friday, April 25, on McMicken Commons, and runs through noon, Saturday, April 26. Preeti (which she says is Sanskrit for the word “love”) will join the largest number of cancer survivors ever to take part in the Relay For Life at UC when she walks in the Survivor Lap at 6 p.m., April 25.
Now 30 years old, this first-year biomedical engineering major was born in Louisville, Ky., but grew up in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. Shortly after graduating from high school, she became ill, and says she kept getting diagnosed with typhoid fever and jaundice. After growing so ill that she couldn’t eat, she says she took a two-hour flight to get to a facility where she could get an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) screening. The diagnosis was a form of cancer, Adenocarcinoma, of the small intestine. “Basically, they’re malignant tumors that develop in the intestinal lining. I had to have a lot of surgical procedures and chemotherapy,” she says.
After a two-and-a-half year remission, Preeti says she was diagnosed with the cancer again. It had spread to her colon, but it was discovered early. “I think that’s what saved me,” she says. “After having that history of cancer, I had become very aware of when something did not feel right and would immediately go to the doctor. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
After successful treatment a second time, Preeti was planning to enter UC in 2004. Weak and severely underweight after battling cancer, she had moved to the U.S. to get back her strength while spending time with relatives in Glasgow, Ky., and then became interested in continuing her education. Then, she says she contracted tuberculosis in her intestine, in the same region where she had battled cancer. “I still feel weak and have a lot of food restrictions,” she says, after recovering from that struggle. “I still can’t run, because my diaphragm is still very sore.”
Relay For Life consists of teams who raise money for the Relay and take turns walking around the pathway on McMicken Commons for the full 18 hours of the event. Volunteer walkers are recruited through the UC Center of Community Engagement. Students have organized this fundraiser on UC’s campus since 2003.
Peter Osborne, Southwest Ohio Public Relations Director for the American Cancer Society, says that Ohio volunteers raised $16.4 million from Relay For Life events in 2007, including the $102,500 volunteers raised at UC last year to fund the research, education and treatment of cancer. Nationally, Relay For Life volunteers raised a total of $407 million in 2007 and have raised more than $2.5 billion since 1985.
Relay For Life honors the survivors who have battled cancer, those who are in the battle, and those lost to cancer. After dark, during the emotional Ceremony of Hope, lighted bags called luminaria represent a person affected by cancer as well as those who were touched by that experience. UC’s Luminaria Ceremony will take place at 10 p.m., Friday, April 25.
Preeti says she will not just be walking for herself, but also for her father, who is in the third year of a battle with leukemia. “I am really moved when I think that Relay For Life is an event for survivors,” Preeti says. “That word, ‘survivor,’ really means a lot to me.”
Relay For Life at UC co-chair Florence Lucas, a UC sophomore and secondary education/mathematics major, says the UC Relay is themed around Disney characters. “We expect to see a lot of Disney princesses. We have a lot of sororities participating this year,” she says.
UC faculty, staff, students and members of the Cincinnati USA community can support the UC Relay For Life by making a donation. Information on making donations is featured on the UC Relay For Life Web site.
Osborne adds that there are 30 Relay For Life events this spring in the Cincinnati USA region. Participants in the Relay For Life at UC are also encouraged to support relays in their hometowns. Call 800-ACS-2345 or visit the Relay For Life Web site.