Relay participant, cancer survivor, walks for others

Last modified: Friday, May 30, 2014


This is the fifth in a series of guest articles explaining aspects of Relay For Life of Hampshire County, a yearly American Cancer Society fundraiser. This year’s Relay will be June 13-14 at Look Memorial Park in Florence.

David Laprade of Westhampton and his wife, Mary, took part in the American Cancer Society’s first Relay For Life of Hampshire County, and they continue to participate to this day. It has never meant more to them than it does now because Laprade was diagnosed with melanoma last year.

“The main reason we Relay is because of family and friends. At first, we didn’t totally understand what they went through,” Laprade says. “Now, I do.”

Many of Laprade’s friends and family have been affected by cancer, including Mary’s late brother, Russell Payson of Easthampton, and a friend, the late Joan Cranson of Northampton.

This year, Laprade is part of the Relay team known as The CandyMen. He and his wife will take turns walking on the track.

During each Relay, teams of walkers go around a temporary track, raising money from donors for their efforts. Every participant is asked to raise at least $100, and participants are urged to set both team and individual goals. This year’s Relay is set for June 13-14 at Look Memorial Park in Florence.

The American Cancer Society puts roughly 75 percent of funds raised through Relay events across the country into research and programs; about 25 percent covers the cost of fundraising and expenses.

Locally, ACS also funds programs used by area residents, such as Road to Recovery, which offers transportation services for those who need help getting to their doctors’ appointments.

Patients from the Valley who receive care in Boston are able to stay at the ACS-funded AstraZeneca Hope Lodge in Boston and the Worcester Hope Lodge, which offer transportation to treatment appointments and lodging during treatments away from home.

And, Look Good … Feel Better® sessions help patients cope with hair loss and skin changes that result from chemotherapy and radiation treatments; area residents access this program through Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

Emotional support and information are also important. Donations allow for online communities like the Cancer Survivors Network, at, where patients and survivors can share stories and meet others. ACS also provides classes for friends and family members, as well as groups or personal meetings.

Laprade discovered his cancer last year when his physician noticed a suspicious lump on his leg and suggested he have it biopsied. This biopsy showed that the lymph node was cancerous, and it was removed.

A month later, Laprade learned he had melanoma in his right toe, and it was amputated — often the only treatment for melanoma. As Laprade explains, chemotherapy has no effect on this type of cancer.

Laprade credits his recovery to his team of dedicated physicians, including an oncologist, a cancer surgeon, a dermatologist and his family doctor, all of whom keep a regular and keen eye on his health.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today, and that’s a fact,” he says.

To volunteer for Relay or for more information, email or visit

Lisa Marie Leary is a junior at Westfield State University who assists with publicity for Relay For Life of Hampshire County.


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