2013-07-12 / People


Resident wants to make cancer a thing of the past
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Dawn Emery, of the American Cancer Society (left) and Michelle Horton, co-chair of the the Greater Portland Relay for Life, honor Susan Towle (center) for her commitment to cancer research (Courtesy photo) Dawn Emery, of the American Cancer Society (left) and Michelle Horton, co-chair of the the Greater Portland Relay for Life, honor Susan Towle (center) for her commitment to cancer research (Courtesy photo) SOUTH PORTLAND—Susan Towle of South Portland had already beaten cancer when the disease struck her family again in 2009. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 1997, and has been cancer free since she went through treatment that year.

In the summer of 2007, Towle was invited to the Greater Portland Relay for Life in South Portland for the first time, when she participated in the survivor and caregiver lap that kicks off the overnight event.

Then, in the spring of 2009, Towle lost her father to cancer. Sonny Towle, also of South Portland, died at 76. That moment was the trigger, she said, to step up her efforts and do everything she could to fight cancer through the Relay for Life.

“That’s when I said, ‘I need to do more,’” Towle said.

For the last three years, Towle has served as the co-chair of the Greater Portland Relay for Life committee. She and the rest of the volunteers begin working in the fall for the June event, organizing fun activities and games through the night and securing funds from local businesses so all the money raised by participants can go to the American Cancer Society for research and services.

This year, the American Cancer Society honored Towle with the Sandra C. Labaree Volunteer Values Award, recognizing volunteers “whose actions and service in the fight against cancer most exemplify the society’s organizational values.”

Towle was one of six Mainers recognized with the award. She was joined by Diane Yazwinski of Yarmouth, Judi York of Skowhegan, Bev Davis and Rick Litchfield of Kennebunkport and Jennifer Beadnell of Portsmouth, N.H.

Towle was nominated for the award by Michelle Horton, the other co-chairman of the event, and Dawn Emery of the American Cancer Society.

“It was nothing I expected. I don’t do it for any type of recognition. I do this because i want to put an end to cancer,” Towle said. “I want to do what I can to eradicate the disease, that’s the only reason I do this.”

The Greater Portland Relay for Life, held in June at South Portland High School, raised more than $112,000 this year toward cancer research and programs. The event lasts 18 hours through the night, from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m., and features different themes and activities in what organizers bill as “Greater Portland’s slumber party.”

Towle said while fundraising is a huge part of the Relay for Life’s mission, the camaraderie and experience of the night is just as important to her.

“Sitting at home writing a check does fund research and does provide services, but it doesn’t give you the connection with the other people that have been affected. You meet some amazing people.” she said.

The money raised through Relay for Life events around the country funds a variety of programs through the American Cancer Society. Those include the Hope Lodges, which offer cancer patients and caregivers a place to stay free of charge when traveling out of town for treatment.

The American Cancer Society also offers a 24-hour phone service to help anyone with questions about cancer, including information about treatment, resources available to patients and opportunities to volunteer.

According to the American Cancer Society’s website, more than 1 million people took advantage of that phone service this year. Specialists are available through the service at 1-800-227-2345.

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