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By Eric Heinz

Cancer is an indiscriminate disease.

On the “wall of love” at the San Clemente Relay for Life, pictures of people who died battling the ailment showed faces young and old, of many different backgrounds.

On Aug. 26, hundreds of people gathered at Jim Johnson Memorial Sports Park to celebrate the lives of those lost and support research that works to cure and treat the disease.

Maureen Aitken and her husband, Chris, have helped with the organization and contributions for Relay for Life in San Clemente for the past few years. Maureen is a breast cancer survivor, and she said a powerful memory of hers is seeing Saylor Voris, a San Clemente High School student who died from a rare form of leukemia in 2015.

“When I was sick with cancer, I knew she was going to be there, and even though I saw her, I (thought), ‘she’s just in high school.’ She was huge inspiration,” Maureen said. “A lot of people go to that event just because of Saylor. I looked at her and thought, ‘If she can do it, then I can do that,’ and it’s just kind of motivated me moving forward.”

During the event, Konnie Voris, Saylor’s mother, spoke about how cancer affected her family. She said they would attend Relay for Life even before Saylor was diagnosed.

“It’s not just one day; it’s all year that your friends are there for you, making sure you’re OK and have what you need,”

Konnie said. “Life is really short, and you need to live it well.”

Val Meyer’s first Relay was in 1998 and she helped bring the Relay to San Clemente. She said they started in Mission Viejo before starting the local event.

“We’ve lost grandparents on both sides of the family to cancer,” Meyer said. “Every year, it’s someone else, someone else who is diagnosed from our tight-knit community.”

When asked about what keeps her motivated, Meyer said it’s the advancements in cancer treatment that have given her optimism.

“One local family had a member diagnosed with a form of brain cancer, and because of the form of treatment, the clinical trial he was involved in, they believe that’s why he’s here today,” Meyer said. “It’s those victories of people we hear in town who have defeated cancer, and that commitment to my mom and those people who passed.”

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