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SELMA – As the annual Central Valley Cancer Walk fundraiser kicked off Sept. 29, organizers say the event may be an important fundraiser, but it’s also a way to celebrate those who’ve survived their fight with cancer and remember those who have not.

Andrew Guzman, a board member with Selma Cancer Support and a local police officer, welcomed participants that Saturday morning to Pioneer Village. He explained that organization may provide financial support, but also does much more than that.

“Many of you are here for a reason. Either because you’ve lost a loved one or you’re a survivor,” he said as the event started. “What Selma Cancer Support does is assist those who are suffering from cancer or who may have lost a loved one. We provide, at times, financial assistance, spiritual help and emotional help.”

Guzman shared that since his mother dealt with breast cancer, he knows how the patient’s diagnosis affects the whole family.

“It’s a tough thing to watch your family member go through or you yourself. So us, as the board and President Char Tucker, we really take joy in being able to help.”

As Central Valley Cancer Support, the organization has been able to branch out to help other local communities conduct their own fundraising events. This year, teams from Selma, Sanger and Fowler took part in the walk that went from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. There was Zumba later in the day and the local band, Prestige, performed live music later that evening.

“We’re able to fundraise specifically for those cities and keep the money local,” he said.

Tucker credited the board and many volunteers it took to host the event and said no matter how many different cancer survivors’ stories she hears, she’s still in awe of their tenacity.

“You are some of the bravest people I know. I get strength from listening to your stories and seeing you continue the fight. We’re here to help you and support you.”

Cancer survivors took the initial lap and family members marched after them in honor of their relatives. Some carried signs and wore T-shirts with their relative’s pictures. Others decorated booths in honor of their family members and sold food and other items to fundraise for the event.

As the Selma Bandit Cheerleaders pumped up the walkers with cheers of support, women such as Tracy Rodriguez, of Sanger, marched side-by-side with her friend Alice Archuleta, of Selma. Rodriguez has already dealt with breast cancer but Archuleta is still undergoing treatment.

“It’s like you’re on a journey and then all of a sudden, you’re taken on a curve. You’ve got to find your way back,” Rodriguez said.

The women say if there’s anything others can learn from their experience, it’s that the sooner a person gets checked and diagnosed, the sooner they can start treatment and get on the road to recovery.

Archuleta said she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in 2015. She’s almost done with her treatment, but recalls the initial concerns when she was first diagnosed.

“When they say ‘cancer,’ right away you think, ‘I’m going to die.’ Your kids go through your mind, your grandchildren and how you’re not going to see them grow up.”

Archuleta said she underwent a mastectomy and is glad that at least now even her young relatives know to get check-ups early. She’s also glad the local cancer nonprofit was able to help them financially.

“It really changes your life. It changes everything. At that time my husband wasn’t working so Char and Selma Cancer Support helped us with a couple of house payments. They helped with anything we needed and Char was extremely helpful and informative.”

The women were also glad the fundraising event was taking place to raise awareness since many don’t realize the organization exists until cancer strikes their family and they are in need.

“Selma Cancer Support was there for us and we didn’t have to burden the rest of the family,” Archuleta said. “I didn’t know about this until after I got cancer and it seems like younger and younger ladies are getting it. I thank God for them and one day I want to give back the help I was given.”

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