It may seem like a silly notion and Diane Devoe can’t really explain it. But the Irishtown woman always felt the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event wouldn’t happen unless she was there.
The society’s first Relay for Life in Corner Brook was in 2002 and Diane was there to honour and remember her son, Gary Devoe.
Gary died on April 8, 2000. He was 17 years old and had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma just three years before.
It was a diagnosis that would change the family forever and meant an eight-month stay at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto where Gary underwent a bone marrow transplant.
At first it was just Diane, her husband Walter and Gary who made the move. They were joined a little later by their younger son, Cory.
Things went well with the transplant and nothing showed up at Gary’s first checkup. By May 1998 the cancer had returned.
After that they tried naturopathic treatment and again things seemed to have worked. Gary returned to school, but in the fall of 1999 his condition grew worse.
“He was so tired of taking the pills that he just didn’t want to,” said Diane.
She and Walter took him to Nova Scotia to try a treatment of omega oils, but that didn’t do anything.
Through it all, Diane said Gary was strong and his attitude was good. There were times the treatments would take a toll.
“But he never, never complained.”
Gary was a pleasant, happy person, she said.
“Win you over with a smile.”
Two years after Gary’s death Diane learned about the Relay for Life from a friend and knew she had to be there.
“...That I had to be there to remember him,” she said. “He wouldn’t be left out and forgotten.”
That first year Gary’s Gang, as they’ve been known since the beginning, had two teams.
Now there is one team that will unite for this year’s relay on Sept. 7 at the Corner Brook Civic Centre Studio from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Diane will be joined by Marjorie Saunders, Shelley Loder, Karen Loder, Michelle Byrne, Penny Osmond, Rose Noel, Rosiland Wheeler and Pauline Mcauley. Walter will also be around.
Some of them have been with Diane since the start, there for her and for Gary. Now all of them have been affected by cancer in some way.
And as she looked at pictures taken over the years she reminisced about the colourful costumes they once wore, often to fit a theme. Today the team wears shirts with Gary’s picture on them.
To have the team with her is “just wonderful.”
The event is not for everyone and there can be difficult times. The luminary ceremony is one part that affects her, but there’s never been a time when she said she couldn’t do it.
“I was just the opposite. I’m doing this,” she said.
And she encourages others to get involved, either as part of a team or a spectator.
“You’re remembering them, you’re honouring them. I am there for Gary. I am there to remember Gary. It’s my way to honour him.”
And the event is uplifting, she said. “The adrenaline just flows. You get so wrapped up with it.”