When cancer strikes, there are not too many degrees of separation. Former Monroe First Selectman Thomas Buzi lost his life after a long battle with the disease. Then his successor, Steve Vavrek, lost his mother from cancer. Vavrek works with Human Resources Dir. Catherine Lombardi, who is a breast cancer survivor. Lombardi's' best friend Wendy Jolls' mother is now clean after going through four bouts with the disease.
Cancer also doesn't discriminate by age. Jessica Morcone of Monroe was only an 18-year-old college student when she was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer.
Cancer survivors shared their stories and lost loved ones were remembered during the Relay for Life of Monroe/Trumbull, held at Masuk High School on Friday and Saturday.
The fundraising event also celebrated the caregivers.
When Jessica Morcone experienced depression and fear while fighting her disease, her mother, Anne, would not give up until her daughter's beautiful smile was back.
Beverly Eaton, 81, of Shelton, who is Jolls' mother, jokes that she's had breast cancer three times, though she doesn't have three breasts. She also recovered from uterine cancer.
"And I'm here," Eaton said. "I'm clean right now. I'll be 82 next month."
Jolls and her mother agree that having been diagnosed with cancer before doesn't make the bad news an it any easier to swallow.
"Every time you hear those words, 'You have cancer,' it's not easy," said Jolls, who was the event chair for Monroe and Trumbull's Relay.
"All the people work tirelessly for this event," she said Friday evening. "This event raised over $70,000 and we're not done yet."
Of the Relay for Life, Eaton said, "It's wonderful. It's a big boost to help more people. They wouldn't get this money anywhere without these events."