Relaying for life and raising awareness about cancer
Jessica with her children Talia (L), Kylie (M) and Trevor (R).
“Anglers” will bring their fishing gear and walking prowess to the Cape Cod Fairgrounds in East Falmouth on June 24 to raise money and celebrate lives at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
Jessica Cook, 42, will be there with her team, Jess’ Brain Surgeons, to walk the walk for 24 hours. The theme of the event this year is “Fishing for a Cure.”
The relay is a community event where teams of participants take turns walking all night around a track. The event is family friendly and provides games, food and activities to support walkers and their families. It honors those who are fighting cancer and survivors, and commemorates those who have lost their lives to the disease.
All proceeds from the fundraiser go to support programs of the American Cancer Society.
Cook, the mother of three children and two step-children was diagnosed in 2003 with an Astrocytoma, a cancerous brain tumor. It forms from star-shaped cells called astrocytes that make up the glue-like substance of the supportive tissue in the brain.
After her diagnosis and surgery, Cook and her best friend since high school, Erin Rose of East Falmouth, decided to raise money for the American Cancer Society by putting together a Relay for Life team.
It is an especially personal commitment for Cook.
“I relay for myself and in memory of my dad who died of colon cancer when I was 16,” she said.
Cook’s mother was chair of the Upper Cape Relay for Life event for many years, before moving to Florida.
“Jessica is amazing, she is such a fighter,” said Rose. Even after the cancer returned two more times followed by surgeries, she has fought to get back into life.
Rose and Cook have partnered not only with their team of walkers but also in planning and helping with various aspects of the relay. They have been on committees and over the past couple of years have put on the survivors’ dinner before the relay in the evening.
Karen Bisienerie of Mashpee, another member of Jess’ Brain Surgeon team is in awe of what Cook has accomplished between her diagnosis, treatment and dedication to the relay.
“She is an inspiration to all of us,” she said.
Cook’s husband, Peter, three children, Trevor, Kylie and Talia and step children, Madeline and Ian, have all relayed with Rose and her son, Brenton.
“We are family,” said Rose. “The community of relay teams and committee members who have participated year after year have also become family. We all work so closely together.”
After 10 years of relaying, Cook, Rose, Bisienerie, their families and friends will hang up their stethoscopes, surgical scrubs and caps for the last time after walking their 24-hour trek around the track.
Cook said she is unsure how much they have raised over the years, their focus is mainly on the year they are relaying. The team has raised $2751 thus far this year, surpassing their goal of $1,000.
“I feel like it has been a good stretch for us,” said Cook.
There is a bagpiper who starts the event off every year. This year, he will start playing from a distance and continue until he reaches the track.
The survivors lap may be a bit more emotional for the team this year and as dark settles, the glowing luminaries will burn a bit brighter.
Guaranteed, there won’t be a dry eye on the track.