Cancer? Diana Ballinger has been there, done that -- not once, not twice, but six times.
Diana and her husband Richard lived in Danville for 20 years before moving to San Ramon three years ago. She is the community outreach chairwoman for the American Cancer Society's annual Relay for Life Danville, which takes place the weekend of July 27-28 at Monte Vista High School.
They've both done the Relay for Life for the last four years. "In that short 24 hours, you're with people who've had cancer or been touched by cancer," Diana said. "People bring tents and sleeping bags, and it's so much fun. There's a Miss Relay, with guys all in gowns; car relays, where we all get inside these cars and race around the track with people cheering and throwing money; lots of food, a cake walk, Zumba, movies all night and live entertainment."
When it gets dark enough, Diana said, a luminaria ceremony is held in honor of those who have passed on, with photos and videos played on a big screen.
Diana has had cervical cancer, two breast cancers and three skin cancers. How did she get through it?
"You do whatever it takes. For me, comic relief is so important," Diana said. "And I write poetry. It's my outlet, my way of coping. I let the pain out by writing it out."
Her collection of poems, "Fighting My Way Through Breast Cancer With Poetry," is for sale at Amazon.com, and she donates copies to various cancer treatment centers and hospitals.
She also found a great support group -- women going through breast cancer -- on the "Network of Strength," an online support site for women with cancer.
"We became fast friends, even though none of us had ever met, and we supported each other through the whole journey, Diana said in an email to me. "We laughed together, cried together, got angry together."
Group members had their first face-to-face meeting in 2009 in Fairfax, Va., and five of them are getting together again for this year's Relay for Life. Their team, "The Amazing Race," has 13 members. At least one of them will always be on the track for the full 24 hours.
Diana said last year's Relay for Life raised over $50,000 for the American Cancer Society.
"When I was bald and at my lowest, they gave me $250 through their Look Good, Feel Better program. You look like an alien, but they work with you to pick a wig and teach you about makeup when you've lost your eyebrows and eyelashes. And they matched me with a woman who was there for me 24/7. It's not just about finding a cure, it's getting you through it. I can't say enough nice things about the American Cancer Society."
"We are looking for cancer survivors to sign up as well as participants and teams," said Lori Garcia, Relay for Life committee chair. For further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Lori at 925-548-5750.
"Lori Garcia is my heroine," Diana told me. "She just gives 2,000 percent every year. She's the reason I keep coming back."
Hospice fundraiser: Cancer claims all too many lives each year. The mission of Hospice of the East Bay is to provide compassionate end-of-life care to terminally ill patients while offering emotional, spiritual and grief support for the entire family.
At Hospice's June 1 annual gala, the nonprofit organization's biggest fundraiser of the year, a power outage plunged Diablo Country Club into darkness, bringing the evening to a premature end before the live and "Share-the-Care" auctions could be completed. The live auction was conducted and completed online, but the "Share-the-Care" auction is open through June 21 for supporters to contribute directly to the programs and services provided at Hospice of the East Bay.
Visit the gala website at https://hospicee.ejoinme.org/MyEvents/Gala2013/ViewVideoSharetheCareDonation/tabid/471884/Default.aspx. Hospice of the East Bay accepts all medically qualified patients, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.
Contact Georgia Lambert at around- email@example.com.