Four-time cancer survivor Marni Mullis named 2019 Relay for Life honorary chair

Marni Mullis speaks during the 2019 Relay for Life kickoff at the Allan Bird Memorial Gym on March 25, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Growing up in Prince Albert, Marni Mullis had a plan.

Become a nurse, get married, and raise some children.

She did exactly that.

Then 1995 rolled around, and Mullis was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, cancer that starts in the white blood cells.

“Cancer wasn’t in my plan,” Mullis said.

“It definitely wasn’t my plan to have it again in 1998, 2002 and 2017. When someone tells you that you have cancer, you don’t hear anything after that. You think your life is over. But I’m here to tell you, it isn’t so.”

Mullis got involved with the Canadian Cancer Society and Relay for Life after her diagnosis. She has been involved ever since, sewing the Hand of Hope banner, and has co-chaired the survivor committee.

This year, she’s the event’s honorary chair. She was introduced as the honorary chair Monday at the 2019 Relay for Life Kickoff hosted by the PAGC Tumorinators, who was the top fundraising team of last year’s campaign, collecting over $9,200.

“My story is the reason I joined Relay for Life,” Mullis said, “to give back to others some of the good and positive things in my life. I may have cancer, but it doesn’t have me.”

Mullis was introduced as the honorary chair by this year’s event co-chair, Lyle Karasiuk. Karasiuk is joined by Bruce Vance as the other co-chair of the 2019 event.

“Relay is more than just a fundraiser,” he said.

“This event is an opportunity for the community to celebrate those who have lived in the face of cancer, and those moving past cancer,” he said.

‘The victory lap provides hope to those currently in treatment, and provides an opportunity for survivors to be part of a caring group of people who have all been touched by cancer.”

The survivor’s lap kicks off the annual event, which is being held on June 8 this year at Kinsmen Park. It runs from noon until midnight.

Relay for Life co-chair Lyle Karasiuk speaks at the 2019 kickoff event on March 25, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Survivors all wear special shirts, setting them apart from supporters and caregivers, and providing a visual symbol of those who have conquered cancer.

The survivors’ sea of yellow is followed by introductions of the teams that will walk the track until midnight.

Caregivers are recognized at 6 p.m., to honour those who impact and support people through their cancer journey.

Then, when the sun sets, hundreds of luminary candles are lit around the path.

“As our local bagpipers play, these luminaries will be lit all around the path and hope will shine through the darkness,” Karasiuk said.

“It will pay tribute to those who have beaten cancer and those who have lost that battle. It is a remarkable sight and a very moving ceremony.”

Last year’s event helped raise over $63,000. It included 15 teams, 140 participants and about 150 survivors.

This year, organizers are aiming higher.

“The goal is over $83,000,” Karasiuk said.

“With several teams already registered and more pledged to take part, we want to encourage everyone to get a team together with friends, family, coworkers or maybe just the neighbours down the street and help us make a difference in the lives of those with cancer.”

Mullis spoke about how important those funds are to the work the Canadian Cancer Society does.

“If you have been touched by cancer in any way, please consider giving generously to the Relay for Life,” she said.

“These funds help the Canadian Cancer Society with groundbreaking research, supply trusted information about cancer and programs to help survivors and their families cope.”

“We know cancer changes people,” Karasiuk added.

“Bu ta cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to define a person. Our goal is to improve the cancer experience to help people lie longer and enhance their quality of life. Funds raised through Relay for Life are changing lives for the better.

“We believe life is bigger than cancer.”