Gene Feher is 'honored' to be honorary chair for Relay for Life 2014

“Cancer” is Gene Feher’s least favorite word in the English language and he is certain that countless millions share this sentiment.

Gene is now 66 years old, and cancer has been part of his life since the age of 12, when his mother was diagnosed at the age of 40 with breast cancer. She lived for seven more years and died at the age of 47. Fifteen years later, Gene’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 63 and died soon after.

Cancer — the word makes people shudder with fear when a physician says it to them. Gene heard the word spoken to him five and a half years ago. Frozen in fear, it just didn’t compute.

“Impossible! Not me. He must mean something else. This can’t be happening.” These thoughts, he recalled, raced through his head in that moment.

However, for Gene, reality set in and gave him a needed push forward.

“I remember thinking, what now? What course of action?” he said.

Gene is one of the lucky ones. His bladder cancer was caught early and his surgery and treatments were successful.

Now cancer-free, Gene continues to do whatever he can to raise funds for research and awareness of this horrible disease. When Gene was diagnosed, he discovered Relay for Life here in Wilton. As part of a group of cancer survivors, their families and friends, doing their part in an endeavor that makes a difference in life, he didn’t feel so alone.

“There wasn’t time for self-pity,” he says. “My wife, Irene, and I just joined in and moved forward to help with the cure. It has been uplifting and a way to continue my small contribution to this cause.”

As a long-standing member of the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps (WVAC), Gene formed a team with his fellow EMTs from WVAC. For the past five years, the WVAC team, “Wilton EMS — Everyone Must Survive,” has donated its efforts to raising funds for Wilton Relay for Life.

“We have raised funds online and given our time by running the concession stand at Relay to further raise money,” he said recently. “Since we started this team, I am proud to say that we have raised more than $25,000 toward cancer research. It does make a difference.”

When Gene looks back, he believes if the kind of treatment and knowledge available today existed when his mother was diagnosed, she would have led a normal life and his father would have survived a lot longer, too.

But there are other special people in Gene’s life who also drive his passion to find a cure — his daughter, Tara, and his first grandchild, Zachary.

“Perhaps I won’t see a cure for cancer in my lifetime, but I hope that one day my children and grandchildren may live in a world without cancer,” he said. “My drive to beat my own cancer was based on a wish — to be alive to be a grandfather and continue to be there for my children. I am truly blessed to be able to say that this is now a reality and I am grateful for every moment with them.

“I am truly honored to have been named honorary chair for this year’s Wilton Relay for Life,” he added. “I accept it in memory of my parents, in hope for my children and grandchildren and in gratitude for the Relay participants here in Wilton who give of themselves selflessly for this cause.”

Relay will be held from Saturday, May 31, to Sunday, June 1. For information about the event, to register or to join a team, visit www.relayforlife.org and search “Wilton.”

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