After watching his parents battle cancer, Mark Sleigh has become an advocate for change.
That's why he's agreed to be the patron of this year's Wollongong Relay for Life, and why he fully embraces the theme 'Make the Change'.
Mr Sleigh, the general manager of Destination Wollongong, encouraged Illawarra residents to "come for a lap, come for the day" for the fundraising event on Saturday, October 12.
This year, in keeping with the theme, Wollongong's Relay for Life will change from a 24-hour event to a 12-hour event to welcome individuals and teams who want to participate over a shorter period.
Organisers hope to attract 1500 people, and raise $150,000 for Cancer Council NSW, at the event at the Kerryn McCann Athletic Track at Beaton Park Leisure Centre.
"My family has been involved with Relay for a long time, and it's something we're very passionate about, with both my stepfather and mum in remission," Mr Sleigh said.
"My stepfather Johnno (John Saville) was the first candidate, he was diagnosed with cancer of the tonsils.
"He was a proud shearer, a very strong man, and he went through a brutal time with chemotherapy, radiation ... it really sucked the life out of him and he still bears the scars today.
"I still have memories of speaking to him every night, him telling me he wasn't going back for more treatment. Then the next morning I'd speak to mum, and she'd tell me he was back in - he did it for his family."
Then, seven years ago, Mr Sleigh's mother Wendy's own cancer battle began - and the prognosis was dire.
"Basically she'd been told to go home and prepare to die," he said.
"She took us to her doctor, introduced us and then left - she didn't want to hear the negativity, she just wanted to get on and live the rest of her life."
Mrs Saville was referred to the region's palliative care services, where she was fortunately advised by a specialist to seek a second opinion.
"It took eight weeks to work out what cancer it was and how to treat it," Mr Sleigh said. "Her strength was amazing. She had grade three ovarian cancer, but she was relieved as she finally knew what she was fighting."
After four weeks of intensive chemotherapy, and major surgery, the family received "miraculous" news.
"The cancer cells had been completely wiped out of her body, and after she finished her treatment she was given a clean bill of health."
What stuck with Mr Sleigh was not just the physical strain, but the mental strain - for both his parents and those who loved them.
"Operationally, getting to appointments and treatments, wasn't the hard part," he said. "The mental side was the hardest - the waking up at 3am and thinking 'what's next'."
His family made a commitment to celebrate milestones together - to make every birthday, Easter, Christmas an event to remember.
Now they'll be proud to walk together for Wollongong's Relay - along with many others who have their own cancer journeys.
"We want to continue to push for change - to make things easier for patients and carers, and to one day find a cure," he said.
Relay committee chair Stuart Barnes said the event brought the community together to celebrate survival, remember loved ones lost, and to fight back against cancer.
He said the theme 'Make the Change' encouraged people to change their lifestyles to prevent cancer; to change the way they looked at cancer and how they worked with it. It also reflected changes to this year's format.
In the last 18 years, the Wollongong event has raised more than $3.8 million. This year, funds will go to a range of Cancer Council NSW initiatives, including the transport to treatment program and accommodation services.