For these walkers, the fight against cancer is personal

At the outset, dozens of cancer patients and survivors crowded onto the stage at Embarcadero Marina Park North along San Diego Bay. They raised their arms in one giant collective swoop and let fly a flock of white doves to symbolize their hope, and prayers.

Hundreds of others touched by cancer helped kick off the annual Relay for Life on Saturday morning, launching a 24-hour fundraiser and battle plan against one of the most pervasive killers in the world.

“It’s mainly about getting together with other survivors and being around positive people,” said Cathleen Mingo of Oak Park, a wife and mother of two young children who was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in December.

“Positivity is really important when you are fighting cancer,” said Mingo, 40, whose orange-red hair is just beginning to grow back after her treatment. “And to be able to raise funds and get more research is really important.”

The around-the-clock event, the American Cancer Society’s signature promotion that unfolds in dozens of cities across the globe every year, is designed to parallel the personal struggle that a cancer diagnosis often entails.

The morning represents the initial shock of digesting the news that many patients experience, followed by a pledge to fight through treatment, organizers said.

With the afternoon comes fatigue, mirroring the chemotherapy and its unwelcome side effects and everything else related to the fight for their lives.

The black of night, when walkers continue to push through Marina Park North while temperatures sink and self-doubt creeps onto their conscience, represents the fear and uncertainty cancer patients confront during the depth of their treatment.

And with the sunrise comes the hope of a winning effort and promise of one new day.

More than 50 teams signed up to participate in the fundraiser, with up to 1,000…

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