By UTE SCHULENBERG
HOPE was the message and it came wrapped in a spirit of zany community fun when close to 400 people stepped onto the track for Bellingen's Relay for Life at the weekend.
Thirty-two teams, including 61 survivors, took it in turns to walk in circles for 18 hours, raising $40,000 along the way to help rid the world of cancer.
"It's been just wonderful," the exhausted but elated co-organiser Kerry Child said.
"There's been a lot of love, a lot of support and emotion and it's been a fantastic success."
Emotions were particularly charged when at 7pm the showground lights were turned off and the crowd looked out across the arena dotted with hundreds of candles illuminating paper bags, each carrying a message to a loved one lost to cancer.
"I hate cancer because my pop died from melanoma on Anzac Day, I miss him", one read.
Another simply said: "You were so brave and cheerful".
As the mayor, Mark Troy said, reflecting and remembering is an important part of the Relay for Life.
"But it's also about putting aside seriousness and being inspired by the positive attitude and sense of adventure of cancer survivors," he said.
For survivor Ann Streckfuss, the event was both wonderful and confronting.
"It's a shock to see all these people, men and women, wearing purple (survivor) sashes," Ms Streckfuss said.
"But it's also good to see how all of them are managing their lives."
Another survivor, Ted Greenwood, said the Relay is critical in keeping the profile of cancer and the importance of research high in the community.
"It flags how many people have been touched by cancer," Mr Greenwood said.
"It also makes it OK to talk about the losses and reminds everyone to listen to their bodies and not to put off getting checks.
"It's better to feel silly for checking than foolish for not."