Cancer survivor leads the way

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After the first weekend in May, when the walkers and runners leave the Bret Harte Union High School track and their tents are gone from the field, Marlene Latham might breath a sigh of relief.

But no breaks until then.

Latham, an Angels Camp resident and a breast cancer survivor, is coordinating the first Relay For Life in Calaveras County.

The relay raises money for the American Cancer Society, for which Latham has been a volunteer for 18 years.

Latham said the relay is a chance for people to join in solidarity against cancer. It is a time to honor survivors, she said, and to remember loved ones who have died.

"You meet so many wonderful people," said Latham, who will take part in her eighth Relay For Life. "And knowing in some small way that you're contributing to what someday could be a cure."

Inside her home near downtown Angels Camp, Latham has converted her computer den into relay headquarters. Stacks of paper cover her desk and futon. Hanging on the walls are pictures of previous relay teams that she captained and awards for her volunteer work.

Many of her rewards are from efforts other than the relays.

Latham also manages the Tuolumne County-based Reach to Recovery, a peer-support program for breast cancer patients.

She has sat on the American Cancer Society Tuolumne Unit Board of Directors for more than four years.

Events like the Relay For Life help teach people about cancer, Latham said. For example, she said, young women should know they are also susceptible to breast cancer.

"It used to be more prevalent with post-menopausal women," Latham said. "Now, unfortunately, we're seeing a trend of women getting it in their 30s, even younger."

Latham is certified by the American Cancer Society to teach women how to do self-checks for abnormal lumps beneath the skin. She said all women should do self-checks and be examined by a doctor each year.

The Union Democrat
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