The name of the event effectively said it all.

A relay "for life".

A gathering of many, many people for more than just a fundraising call.

It is all about embracing, if you like, as one great family whose lives have been affected by losing someone, or watching the battle being engaged in by someone, to that most vile brute called cancer.

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Just writing, saying or hearing that word is enough to cause one to stall for a moment.

The Hawke's Bay Relay For Life was staged for the 12th time last Saturday and it drew a colourful and committed response from a lot of good people.

Those good people raise more than $100,000 year after year for the Bay's cancer society and it goes towards support services, counselling and the transportation of patients between here and their treatment base at Palmerston North.

As Trudy Kirk, manager of the Hawke's Bay Cancer Society, has said, it is highly unlikely there is a family out there which has not, in some way, had a brush with that terrible disease.

In the course of covering the marvellous occasion I spoke to a couple of people who were there as either survivors or who were close to people battling it.

It was quite humbling as their strengths shone through during what are, or have been, dark times.

One survivor had just recently been told her husband had now been diagnosed with cancer - now he has the battle to face.

Another had lost a parent to it, and a close friend.

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I lost my father to cancer and my wife lost her mother to it.

And for me and my siblings, there is the dark reality that we will lose a brother to it in what is looking to be a terribly short time.

As everyone I spoke to on that day said, it is so widely spread and so unpredictable.

It will target any age, any gender and any ethnicity.

Which makes events like the Relay For Life, and all those other excellent gatherings which raise money for cancer research, support and awareness, so very valuable.

They are also valuable in the cheer and buoyancy they create among people who are fighting this dreadful thing, in some way, together.