Relay for Life lifts spirits in cancer battle

Kiama teenager Ashleigh Collins took part in last year's Kiama Relay for Life as a "survivor", believing she had beaten the rare form of bone cancer that had attacked her pelvis before invading every vertebrae in her spine.

Though the cancer returned late last year, the 19-year-old is showing that same spirit of survival by rallying friends and family to join her in this year's relay in Kiama on May 3 and 4.

Ashleigh hopes to raise more than $15,000 for Cancer Council NSW in the process, to fund awareness campaigns, support services and vital research.

"I've had nine rounds of chemotherapy, 55 doses of radiation, a hemipelvectomy operation to remove my pelvis to radiate it and a stem cell transplant, but not once have I thought 'I'm going to die'," Ashleigh said.

"Now I'm going to fight it again, and I'm going to beat it again. It's important for me to support Relay and it's so good to come together with other survivors and supporters to fight back against cancer."

Two-and-a-half years ago Ashleigh was a typical year 12 student at Kiama High School, busy preparing for her HSC examinations, when pain in her pelvis turned out to be sinister.

Her battle against metastatic Ewing's sarcoma has begun anew this year, but she said fund-raising events like Relay for Life were assisting the fight she - and other sufferers - were faced with.

"I'm on a new chemotherapy trial, which has just become available thanks to ongoing research made possible by fund-raising," she said.

"When the cancer came back it showed up in around 12 places in my body - since I've been on this trial the scans have shown the disease in my body is reducing."

Due to the amount of support for Ashleigh, two Team Ash teams have been registered for Kiama Relay for Life, helping boost the number of participants, said co-ordinator Coral Barrett.

"Since we started the Relay for Life here in Kiama four years ago, our dream has always been to get 1000 people to the event," Ms Barrett said. "I really urge people to get involved."

To register call 4223 0200 or visit relayforlife.org.au.

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