Relay For Life is an American Cancer Society event that honors those who have survived their battle with cancer and those who have lost their battle. Janet Wartman is the Community Manager for the Lakeshore Division of the American Cancer society and a four-time cancer survivor, who coordinates Relay For Life events in the Region.
“It’s most fulfilling job I think somebody could ever have. It means hope and hope is a big word, but knowing that somebody is on your side working day in and day out to help you live another day, to help you feel good about what you’re doing; I am honored to be able to work for them,” Wartman said.
While Relay For Life events receive large turnouts, the sense of community isn’t overshadowed.
“You don’t feel lost there and I think that’s what kept making me come back year, after year, after year and the support that you get from the staff, the support that you get from the other volunteers, just the love and there’s not too many places where you can feel that and I think that’s what makes it so amazingly special,” Wartman said.
Wartman chose to become a more active part of coordinating events when a leadership position became available.
“Five years ago when a position came open, I wanted to apply for it because I wanted to make a bigger difference in my community and I think that’s what keeps me going, to know that I can make a huge difference and a huge impact in my community by getting up every day and going out and making a difference and helping those that are in need, just like people helped me when I was in need,” Wartman said.
Each event takes hours of planning and countless volunteers, but the biggest requirement to fill, in Wartman’s eyes, is passion.
“Lots of volunteers, lots of ideas, a lot of hard work, but more than anything: passion. Passion and love for what you’re doing and the outcome. People think it’s about putting on a party and it’s not. It’s about bringing our mission to life, it’s about making a difference to each and every person and knowing that you have to meet everybody at different levels because nobody is at the same level as everybody else,” Wartman said.
Each event is a celebration, but that celebration should not overshadow the real reason people participate in the relay.
“The end result is bring the mission together, and letting people know why we’re there and what we’re doing. Like I said, it’s much bigger than a party. It’s a time to celebrate and remember people all year long, but at the event itself, you want to celebrate the success - celebrate the survivors because they had to work awful hard to get where they got and then not forget the people that have died from this disease, there’s far too many,” Wartman said.
As a four time cancer survivor, Wartman understands what current cancer patients are going through and what helps getting through those tough times.
“When you have something to look forward to, when you have something going the next day, it makes every day seem a little bit better. I’ve had a support group, I’ve had the American Cancer Society, I’ve had many things that have helped me get through each day,” Wartman said. “You have to set goals, you have to set goals big or small and you have to keep your eyes on the prize.”
After four long battles, Wartman gained knowledge from the life-altering illness.
“It’s given me strength, it’s given me more of a knowledge of what people go through. When you’ve never had to go through something significant, it’s hard to really understand. We take things so much for granted, until you can’t do something. When I had my first cancer, I was in a wheelchair and unable to walk for over a year. It’s all the little things just going and getting something out of the refrigerator or going in and putting your shoes on, just those little things you take for granted that I think that gave me just a new light and put me in a different position and made me a stronger person,” Wartman said.
Through her strength and passion for helping others, Wartman was able to move past her illness and become an active part in our community. If you are interested in volunteering at a Relay For Life event, click here for more information.