SURVIVOR – Larry Parks was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2007. After battling cancer he has now participated in the Relay for Life every year since 2008.

Registration open for annual Relay for Life

The annual Relay for Life is set to take place in Red Deer next month.

The event will take place June 13th from noon to 12 a.m. at CrossRoads Church.

This year’s goal is to raise $130,000. Money raised will go towards cancer research, treatment of cancer, to support the Wig Bank, the driver program and for financial assistance to those battling cancer.

At the event teams will walk or run together around a track passing a baton to their fellow participants while working together to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society. There is food and entertainment and a Survivor’s Lap.

Larry Parks, who has participated in the Relay for Life for a number of years, said the cause is close to his heart.

In 2007, Parks was diagnosed suddenly with acute myeloid leukemia.

“I thought I had the flu. I was sick for about three weeks and I was too stubborn to the to the doctor. By the time I did get to the doctor, the morning I was told I had leukemia, they didn’t expect me to live beyond the end of the day,” he said. “I was rushed to Red Deer Regional Hospital and my white (cell) counts were 387,000 and a normal white count would be in the range of four to 10. They couldn’t figure out why I was still alive.”

Parks was transferred to Edmonton the following morning and later that day he had his first chemotherapy treatment.

“There was no time for me to worry about what was going on. It was simply have chemo treatments, or not survive,” he said. “I was feeling pretty good that day and I asked the doctor to do more tests and I will never forget the words of my specialist when he said if we don’t start treatment today, I will not survive beyond a couple of days. That is how serious it was.”

Parks finished three rounds of chemotherapy. After the second round he was told he would need a stem cell transplant to save his life. In June 2007 he received that transplant.

“That was my first taste of being involved with the relay. My office staff in Red Deer entered a team into the Relay for Life called ‘Larry’s Gang’. They sent me six pictures which I hung on the walls on my hospital room and I said I was going to be there next year,” he said. “It was great motivation for me to be there and I was there in 2008. We have been involved in it ever since.”

Parks said his continued involvement with the relay is one of the ways he gives back.

“It’s the least I can do for the organization and the medical science that saved my life. Since 2007 we have raised a little over $100,000 and we are going higher,” he said. “I’m very proud of what we have done.”

Today, Parks is cancer-free and he mentors others battling the disease.

“Over the past six years I have been involved in that, I have mentored about 11 different people who are going through their cancer journey. Unfortunately, they don’t all survive,” he said. “Every time we lose someone I realize how lucky I am to be alive.”

Parks also works with Canadian Blood Services and encourages others to give blood and to the stem cell donor program.

“Last fall I had the opportunity to meet the young woman in Longview, Texas who actually saved my life. That was a great experience.”

For more information about the Relay for Life, call Callie Leshchyshyn at 403-309-5432.

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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