INSPIRATIONAL: Relay For Life committee member and cancer survivor Vanessa Smith.
INSPIRATIONAL: Relay For Life committee member and cancer survivor Vanessa Smith. Gemima Harvey

Supporter, sufferer and survivor

VANESSA Smith knows the throes and woes of cancer all to well.

The John Paul College teacher is a survivor, an inspiration and also a supporter of Cancer Council NSW, helping to raise vital funding through her role on the Relay For Life organising committee.

Losing her sister to breast cancer in 2012 stirred Vanessa to action, and she joined the John Paul College relay team.

Less than two years later, she found herself in need of the services she was volunteering to support.

"I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2014, and from April to November, underwent two operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy," she said.

"My eldest daughter, Naomi, and son Aden, who is attending his last year at school, were a wonderful support to me during my cancer journey.

"My daughter Ebony and her husband travelled all the way from Fremantle WA to support me, and Ebony accompanied me on the Survivors and Carers Walk last year."

Vanessa said although it was scary going through treatment, it was also a wonderfully uplifting year in which friends, family and the students at John Paul College were so supportive.

During her treatment, Vanessa accessed the Cancer Council's Helpline, where she found the people "professional, caring and understanding".

"I love Relay For Life, because it allows the whole community to get involved and contribute in any way they can. Everyone can be involved. If participants have difficulty or are unable to walk, they can be assisted, use wheelchairs, do what they can at their own pace - there is no requirement to be fit or an athlete," she said.

"The Candlelight Ceremony was embraced by the John Paul College students, who wrote beautiful messages on the candle bags."

Relay For Life will take place on the weekend of May 23 and 24.

Cancer Council NSW community relations co-ordinator Pippa Tabone called on the community to take part in Coffs Coast Relay For Life.

"Today many of us are affected by cancer, either personally or through the people we know and love," she said.

"Relay For Life not only raises vital funding to actively support the Cancer Council NSW mission - together we will beat cancer - but is an opportunity for our community to come together and share their cancer experiences - celebrate the successes and commemorate the ones we love and lost."

Register your team online at http://www.relayforlife.org.au (search for "Coffs Coast").

For more, contact Pippa Tabone on 6659 8402.