For Virla Ocker, being involved with the American Cancer Society began many years ago when she was a caretaker for her uncle and was invited to participate in a Relay For Life event.
"That's when I experienced my first Relay. I was overwhelmed," Ocker said. Since then she has served in many positions with Relay For Life teams, as well as with the American Cancer Society.
As a former Voice of Hope, Ocker has spoken at many different events, including relays, meetings and other events. The American Cancer Society selects Voices of Hope, who can be survivors or caretakers, who are able to share their story with an ability to connect with an audience. They share their story at meetings and Relays in various locations, spreading education and awareness of cancer.
Ocker, who is a survivor of three different cancers, obviously is no stranger to the difficult journey that cancer victims and survivors endure.
"It's frightening to hear those words, 'You have cancer,' " Ocker said. "I can honestly say that I just always tried to remain positive, always have a positive outlook. I relied on my wonderful friends, family and faith."
Ocker also knows of the comfort and understanding that the American Cancer Society offers to people who are affected by cancer. She is an advocate for the awareness that the American Cancer Society strives for as well.
"The American Cancer Society was a big support, emotional as well as access to literature and support services that they have available," Ocker said. "You can dial a number, day or night, and speak to someone that knows what you're going through." Ocker currently serves as a chairperson for sponsorship and advocacy for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life of Williamsport.
"I help people become aware, I help with educating legislators as well, in order to get more funding for cancer research."
With a passion for this organization, Ocker always is willing to help.
"I'm here to help anywhere I can. If there's an event where they need help, I'm right there. I'm very passionate about it. I love sharing the story of what's available and what they've done," she said. "I've done radio events, I've gone out to events and promoted our fundraising events. And Lycoming County is amazing with bringing awareness to the community and raising funds."
All funds raised by the Relay For Life teams and other fundraising go to research for cancer. "It's by the research that we are making strides," Ocker said. "I see us getting closer to a cure. Every year we are growing with participants and awareness. We're helping our legislators have more awareness by educating. That's a big thing. We're also trying to educate our youth about tobacco use, the importance of healthy eating and prevention."
"Until you are personally affected, you might not realize how much the American Cancer Society really does. It's overwhelming. This community is amazing. The support we get from local businesses, churches, clubs, just to mention a few, is overwhelming," Ocker said.
The American Cancer Society offers many different benefits to people who are affected by cancer, all you have to do is reach out. There are many patient services available to people going through cancer, including the Look Good ... Feel Better sessions, helping out with transportation to doctor's appointments, even reimbursement for mileage driving to and from doctor appointments through the Road to Recovery programs.
ACS is volunteer driven and always looking for help. "It's one of the largest volunteer, community based organizations there is. I will do everything I can to eliminate cancer as a health issue. I will never stop," Ocker said.
For more information, or how to get involved, visit www.cancer.org.