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'You need to realize that you're not alone,' past organizer says before launch of Coquitlam's Relay for Life

The Relay for Life in Coquitlam will be a virtual event in the second year of the pandemic. The online ceremonies begin at 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 12 and include a performance by Coquitlam musician Tyler Shaw.

Candice Sifert made sure she wasn’t going to repeat history.

At the age of 26, her mother died of breast cancer at 49.

And when her good friend, Robin Poussard of Port Coquitlam, fought brain cancer, Sifert showed her support by signing up for the Langley Relay for Life organized by the Canadian Cancer Society.

A few years back, after being hired by the legal firm of Drysdale Bacon McStravick in Coquitlam as a paralegal and conveyancing supervisor, the Maple Ridge resident immediately took note of its corporate spirit and giving.

It didn’t take much to convince her colleagues to participate in the Coquitlam Relay for Life at Town Centre Park: Her company printed T-shirts with the name “DBM Defeaters” and became a sponsor of the cause. 

It also partnered with the Canadian Cancer Society for its Face Off Against Cancer, a hockey tournament with the Vancouver Canucks alumni of which Sifert is also on the organizing crew.

Cancer, she said, “has affected a lot of staff in the office. Unfortunately, we’ve all been touched by it.”

But while she was rallying her co-workers to build awareness and raise funds for cancer research, Sifert was battling the disease herself. She underwent radiation after being diagnosed early with thyroid cancer.  

Today, she reports, “I’m healthy and I’ve been cancer-free for several years now. I want to give back because I was treated really well when I went through my treatments.”

She also wanted to set an example for her daughter, too.

“When I lost my mom early,” Sifert said, “it affected me so when I had cancer, I was determined that my daughter wouldn’t go through the same thing that I did.”

While Sifert can’t be part of this year’s organizing committee due to work commitments, she’ll be tuning in to the virtual Relay for Life on June 12.

On that day, thousands of supporters will follow the online events to honour cancer survivors and remember those lost to the disease, of which half of all Canadians will be diagnosed with in their lifetime, according to statistics from the society.

The Coquitlam relay, which is now in its 29th year and is the oldest in Canada, runs from 5 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 12; in B.C., there are also virtual Relays for Life in Langley, Prince George and Prince George.

The “reimagined” relays will include an opening ceremony and performances by Coquitlam musician Tyler Shaw plus Alli Walker and Matt Dusk.

Though the relays aren’t in person due to the pandemic, Sifert said it doesn’t matter.

“It’s really about family and being there to be inspired by other people’s stories and journeys. If you’ve lost somebody from cancer, if you’re a caregiver, if you’re a survivor, you need community around you. And you need to realize that you’re not alone.”

Sifert’s husband, who lost his father to cancer, and their daughter, MacKenna, have taken a page from her book, to help with the charity campaigns: Her spouse is by her side at the relays while MacKenna is on the organizing committee and has been singled out for her volunteerism.

“She’s been very active with the society. We all want to see an end to cancer.”

• To sign up for the Coquitlam Relay for Life or to donate to the Canadian Cancer Society, go to