Event celebrates ability to survive, thrive

Had she not been wearing a purple T-shirt, Haley Vana would have been just one of many anonymous individuals romping around Centennial Park on Saturday afternoon.

But that purple T-shirt she wore represented years of struggle, anguish, trepidation, and for the moment, triumph in the life of a 9-year-old girl.

The purple T-shirt means Haley Vana is fighting - and at the moment, winning - a battle against a crushing brain cancer diagnosis first made when she was just 21Ú2 years old.

"I don't know how I can describe the process to you," said her mother, Lin, of Carson City. "Those first four years were very scary. Her prognosis changed a lot."

What was described by Haley as a scary experience has evolved into a celebration of sorts. She's graduated to once-a-month MRI tests, and her condition has stabilized.

On Saturday, Haley joined dozens of cancer survivors clad in purple shirts for a walk to celebrate their progress at the annual Relay For Life fundraiser.

"We just want to celebrate how far we've come in the last six years," Lin Vana said.

Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society's largest fundraiser of the year.

This year, dozens of teams from Carson City pitched tents, raffled prizes and paid tribute to those who have survived and those who have succumbed to cancer.

When the sun rose this morning, many of those tents are poised to remain pitched until the events end later today.

This year's Wizard of Oz-like theme, "There's No Place Like Hope" was reflected in the booth manned by Dan Moffat and his family, "The Flying Monkeys."

Though the theme was cancer, the feel was definitely upbeat.

"You can see how happy people are to come out here," Moffat said. "It's just nice to know we can make people feel good."

Moffat and his family weren't begrudging pulling an all-nighter on Saturday.

You could say Tony Karasek of Carson City has worn a virtual purple shirt for the better part of more than three decades.

The Carson City resident, 56, was diagnosed with bone cancer when he was 20 years old. Doctors amputated his foot and ankle shortly thereafter.

Cancer has been a part of his life for so long, Karasek said he accepted it long ago.

"It's the same old thing," he said. "You do the 'why me' thing first and then you just try to survive. I don't think about it much any more, but that's just me."

Karasek has beaten cancer long enough to raise two grown daughters.

Karasek said he was surprised at how many cancer survivors were at the park on Saturday.

"It's just part of life," he said. "I know there are people who have it a lot worse than me."

• Contact City Editor David Mirhadi at dmirhadi@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1261


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment