At the Fifth Annual Candle Lighting for Hope and Remembrance on Friday, 450 everyday heroes lit Candles of Hope to commemorate those who have struggled with cancer.

Paul Wong
A couple remembers lost loved ones while at the Candle Lighting for Hope and Remembrance at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center on Friday.

These everyday heroes not only include cancer patients, but also the friends, family, nurses, health care providers, researchers, support services staff, attendants and volunteers whose lives have been forever impacted by the fatal disease.

“The courage, strength and commitment makes these people the everyday heroes,” said Sue Wintermeyer coordinator of the Grief and Loss Program.

A video “Everyday Heroes” glued the eyes of all to the television screens to reflect on their experiences with cancer. The video was a compilation of photographs submitted by those who felt the effects of cancer through loved ones.

Mary Waldinger, administrative director of the University Comprehensive Cancer Center said the goal of the event was to sponsor a hopeful and uplifting evening that would create a sense of community among patients and friends.

“It’s really an opportunity for those who have suffered losses to be in the company of others who also have. Survivorship has brought the community together year after year. It contributes to the community and shows a sense of commitment (from the MCCC),” Waldinger said.

Lansing resident Craig Archer said, “Tonight has been very therapeutic for me. It was the first time I really felt like part of something. It made me realize that when you think you’ve got it bad, you don’t really. At least, you’re still here.”

Maxine Solvey, community outreach coordinator for the MCCC, is a 16-year survivor of cancer. She first organized the event in conjunction with the March on Washington and candle lighting at Lincoln Memorial in 1998. Although the event was not held in Washington last year and will not be in the future due to Sept. 11 and corresponding security issues, other cancer centers including the MCCC were strongly encouraged to continue sponsoring the vigil.

“We are doing anything to bring the bereaved and survivors together. Tonight is very important to me personally because it shows that I’m giving back to all those who once helped me in every way they could,” Solvey said.

A small group was dressed in T-shirts that had “Kelly 16” printed on the front and “Kelly is our hero” on the back in support of their family member who is a 16-year survivor of cancer.

“Tonight makes me think of the people I knew who were lost to cancer. I have lots to be thankful for because I’m still here,” Livonia resident Kelly Maksimowicz said.

In addition to the video, other photographs and mementos of those affected by cancer were set on tables for viewing.

Speakers read poems and told their stories of bereavement.

The Voices of Healing Choir sang encouraging songs, and Reverend Joel Beam led responsive readings. Instrumental pieces were played throughout the evening.

As the second leading cause of death in the nation, half of all men and one-third of all women in the U.S. will develop cancer during their lifetime.

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