Valerie Broeker, Union, wiped away tears as she finished naming off a long list of family members who she cared for while undergoing cancer treatment.
She had a message for the cancer survivors and their families and friends listening.
“One day, cancer will hate us more,” she said.
Broeker was named the Franklin County Relay For Life’s Hero of Hope Monday, Feb. 26, at its annual kickoff meeting. The annual honor is given to a cancer survivor or person who has been an exceptional caretaker for someone who has struggled with cancer.
Each year, a person or caregiver who encourages, supports and inspires others fighting cancer is recognized as the hero of hope.
For Broeker, watching over her many family members who struggled with cancer never felt like a chore. Her mother and several of her siblings have struggled with cancer. Just recently her sister was diagnosed.
“Anytime someone in your family gets cancer you have that need to do something. You have that feeling and you ask ‘What can I do to help,’ ” she said. “Sometimes it’s just listening, just calling on the phone and listening to what they have to say and their worry and their thoughts.”
Broeker has been a caretaker for most of her life, but only recently got involved with the Pacific Relay For Life, which recently merged into the Franklin County Relay. She said her family’s struggle with the disease is a major reason she got involved.
She said she hopes by being this year’s Hero of Hope she can send a message to caretakers that what they do can be a gift like no other.
“I know what the people and the families and caregivers are feeling and I would want them to know that just being there with someone is helping,” she said. “Being there through that process is more than they can ever give to them.”
Broeker gave a short, but emotional acceptance speech at the kickoff meeting and accepted a bouquet from the Relay coordinators.
Last year, the Relay For Life achieved its goal by raising $110,000 for the American Cancer Society, surpassing its goal by $10,000. In total, 135 track signs and 705 luminarias were sold. A total of 32 teams registered for the event with 146 survivors.
This year, Relay For Life will be raising its goal to $115,000 and aiming to raise its team and survivor total to 35 and 175, respectively.
The theme is Re”Lei” For Life, or a Hawaiian theme and will be June 8 at Washington High School. Luminarias and track signs are currently on sale.
Luminarias are $5 each and track signs are $50.
For more information on the Relay, people may call the numbers above, or email email@example.com.