The Yées Ḵu.Oo Dancers perform at the end of the Celebration of Life Walk on Sunday at Bill Overstreet Park. The walk, hosted locally by Cancer Connection for more than two decades, occurs on National Cancer Survivors Day. This year’s local celebration featured the first bagpiper, Alaska Native dance group and Native land acknowledgement. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The Yées Ḵu.Oo Dancers perform at the end of the Celebration of Life Walk on Sunday at Bill Overstreet Park. The walk, hosted locally by Cancer Connection for more than two decades, occurs on National Cancer Survivors Day. This year’s local celebration featured the first bagpiper, Alaska Native dance group and Native land acknowledgement. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Bagpipes and dancers bring new life to annual cancer survivors walk

“Everyone is touched by cancer,” organizer says at Sunday event.

Bob King isn’t yet sure he’s a cancer survivor, but after five years after being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, the news was good enough for him to show up and help carry a banner Sunday morning on behalf of others who’ve overcome the disease.

“I was diagnosed with this cancer five years ago and it probably had been growing inside me at least five years before that,” he said after joining about 50 other people in the Celebration of Life Walk from downtown’s Marine Park to Bill Overstreet Park. “I hadn’t gone to previous cancer survivor events because I didn’t think of myself having much of a chance. Only recently I was told that my tumor may be gone. They don’t know for sure and there are other side effects, but now I feel much better.”

Bob King, center, helps carry a National Cancer Survivors Day banner at the beginning of a local Celebration of Life Walk from Marine Park to Bill Overstreet Park on Sunday. King, afflicted with brain cancer for the past five years, said this is the first year he felt able to participate in the walk as a “cancer survivor” because his doctors say they can no longer detect the tumor that was in his brain. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Bob King, center, helps carry a National Cancer Survivors Day banner at the beginning of a local Celebration of Life Walk from Marine Park to Bill Overstreet Park on Sunday. King, afflicted with brain cancer for the past five years, said this is the first year he felt able to participate in the walk as a “cancer survivor” because his doctors say they can no longer detect the tumor that was in his brain. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The annual walk is organized locally by Cancer Connection on National Cancer Survivors Day. This year’s theme was “celebration,” and featured a land acknowledgment, a bagpipe player who led the walkers during a portion of the route and Alaska Native Dancers who performed at the end.

The acknowledgement was given by Fran Houston, cultural Leader of the A’akw Kwáan, who like many other participants recalled people of importance in their lives afflicted with cancer.

“My mother is a cancer survivor,” Houston said. “She had cancer probably 50 years ago. She’s still with us and next month she’ll be 97 years old.”

Fran Houston, left, cultural Leader of the A’akw Kwáan, offers an acknowledgement that a Celebration of Life Walk on Sunday in Juneau is taking place on tribal land. Such land acknowledgements have become common at local official events in recent years. The walk was organized by Cancer Connection, with board member Penny Bullington, center, and president Sheryl Weinberg among the key participants. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Fran Houston, left, cultural Leader of the A’akw Kwáan, offers an acknowledgement that a Celebration of Life Walk on Sunday in Juneau is taking place on tribal land. Such land acknowledgements have become common at local official events in recent years. The walk was organized by Cancer Connection, with board member Penny Bullington, center, and president Sheryl Weinberg among the key participants. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Continuing after a round of spontaneous applause from those gathered, Houston said “it was tough for her, but she’s a tough lady.”

Several songs were performed by the Yées Ḵu.Oo Dancers next to the whale sculpture at Bill Overstreet Park. Sheryl Weinberg, president of Cancer Connection, said adding them and the other new participants this year was simply a matter of “being thoughtful and being inclusive.”

“Everyone is touched by cancer, so this is just bringing together more elements of the community,” she said.

Rai Behnert plays the bagpipes as he leads about 50 people during the final stretch of Cancer Connection’s annual Celebration of Life Walk from Marine Park to Bill Overstreet Park on Sunday.

Rai Behnert plays the bagpipes as he leads about 50 people during the final stretch of Cancer Connection’s annual Celebration of Life Walk from Marine Park to Bill Overstreet Park on Sunday.

Weinberg, who was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2013, was wearing a heart with the name of Jan Neimeyer, a friend who died of cancer the same year. Most of the other participants wore similar hearts with the names of other people they knew affected by the disease.

“Today is a celebration for those who have lived experience facing the challenges of cancer,” Weinberg told participants before the walk started. She said it was an occasion to remember those who had passed, and “may today also be an inspiration for those who have been recently diagnosed and to their supporters.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

Local residents from a diverse range of ages and cultures gather for a cookout Sunday at Bill Overstreet Park after participating in an annual walk celebrating National Cancer Survivors Day. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Local residents from a diverse range of ages and cultures gather for a cookout Sunday at Bill Overstreet Park after participating in an annual walk celebrating National Cancer Survivors Day. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

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