When Hamilton woman Karen Couchman, was diagnosed with terminal cancer seven years ago, a friend suggested to consider getting involved in the annual Relay for Life which raises funds for the Cancer Society.
Her family, kids and their friends - who called Karen mum - got on board and that was the start of the Relay for Life team Mumma Couchman's Kids.
"My mum treated my friends as if they were her own children. She always had an open ear for them and wanted to help," says Karen's daughter Lena.
Sadly, Karen died on February 9, aged 61, after her long battle against lung cancer. In one of her final Facebook posts at the end of January she said: "I am not up to speed and I don't have more than a few weeks. When I am gone I will always be close."
Her team will be back on track walking in honour of Mumma Couchman at this year's Relay for Life on March 27 at Claudelands Oval to carry on what they had started together.
"It's such a serious disease and a huge journey. It costs so much emotions, time and money. All the people going through it need more help, more recognition," Lena says.
Almost every Relay for Life team dresses up to a certain theme. Last year, Mumma Couchman's kids were dressed as unicorns and this year, they will wear outfits according to the colours of the rainbow.
"We think it will spread happiness and positivity to see people being dressed in these bright colours," Lena says.
The participating teams have to keep a baton on the track non-stop for 12h. They can take turns in carrying the baton, so the bigger the team, the more breaks everyone can take.
The batons can be pimped creatively and get shown off on stage. For Relay for Life 2021, Mumma Couchman's Kids have decided to not only design a new baton, but that they will also take last year's on the track. "Because mum really liked it."
Lena says receiving the news of her mum's cancer diagnosis opened a completely new chapter for her.
Through participating in Relay for Life, Mumma Couchman's Kids want to do their part and show their support, raising awareness for the impact cancer has on people.
Lena says that her mum never gave up her daily routine and always had goals. "Like my kids' birthdays or my sister's wedding. She aimed to be here for Relay for Life as well as she had been participating last year."
Walking for 12 hours might appear long, Lena says, but it doesn't feel that way when walking on the day.
"You don't really think about it - we don't even train or prepare for it. And at the end of the day, the amount of tiredness and pain you feel after 12 hours is such a small portion of what people with cancer go through. To me, it's all worth it."
Although Karen won't be with them this year, her team now has 14 participants for the upcoming event - with special guests.
"My 11-year old daughter and my younger sister Elli and her husband from Sydney will be walking with us for the first time. And mum's two brothers will participate as well," Lena says.
Lena also wants to raise additional funds for the Cancer Society and has put together a raffle with 10 cool prizes to be won. There are still 40 tickets left to be in the draw. For more information visit her Facebook page.
If you want to take part in the 2021 Relay for Life fundraiser, you can still sign up here.