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Relay draws cancer survivors, those who love them

Luminaries with names those who have battled cancer line track Lake County Fairgrounds during Relay for Life South Lake County

Luminaries with names of those who have battled cancer line the track at the Lake County Fairgrounds during Relay for Life South Lake County on Friday, June 7, 2013. | Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 11, 2013 1:13PM



CROWN POINT — Cancer survivors, their supporters and those remembering someone who lost their battle with the disease took steps Friday to get closer to a cure at the annual Relay for Life South Lake County.

Longtime friends Deb Perzo and Barb Kortokrax said the Survivor’s Lap is what draws them to the annual Relay for Life South Lake County. Perzo is a 37-year cervical cancer survivor and Kortokrax is a 10-year breast cancer survivor.

“As a survivor, it is very humbling,” Kortokrax said.

Over the years too many friends who have taken that lap later lost their battle with the disease, the women say.

“You have got to come while you can,” Perzo said. Relay for Life shows survivors they have support, something Perzo said was not readily available when she fought her battle 37 years ago.

“In the old days you didn’t say the ‘C’ word. It was kind of like a coming out thing. It was so shameful to have cancer (at the time),” Perzo said. Now, with events like Relay for Life, survivors and their supporters know they are not alone.

Kortokrax said the walk, which began at 6 p.m. Friday with the Survivor Lap and will wrap up about 9 a.m. Saturday, is a way to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. She said she does not want to see her daughters and her grandchildren have to fight the same battle she has.

“You don’t want this organization to die here in this area,” she said.

The event has become an annual celebration for participants, who camp out overnight, conducting fundraisers and offering services such as massages and haircuts.

Eight-year-old Rita Munoz of Hammond was getting her hair buzzed in a survivor service tent. Students of the Success Barber School were giving free haircuts to participants at the relay.

Munoz’s hair hung down to the middle of her back earlier this year, according to her mother, Christina. She said the youngster decided she wanted to donate her hair to Locks of Love and had it cut off for St. Baldrick’s Day.

“I knew kids with cancer needed it,” Rita Munoz said, adding she likes her shortened tresses and has no intention of growing her hair long again any time soon. “I like it ’cause it’s not really in my face anymore.”

Emilio Rodriguez, who finishes his classes at Success Saturday, said he volunteered to give the free haircuts to show support to survivors and their families and friends.

“It’s a fun thing to do,” he said.



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