While attending LPC, Roanne Cairel was diagnosed with and had a five-year battle with colon cancer. Even after moving on from LPC, she is still remembered. Fliers emblazoned with “Roanne’s Race” can be found all around campus. A dance scholarship is found under her name in the LPC dance department.
Most importantly, Roanne’s impact on the lives of people still remains.
“She was the thread that kept everyone together,” LPC student Leslie Paiz said. “Everyone loved her.”
Roanne graduated high school in the spring of 2005 and began attending LPC the following fall semester. Soon after, she began experiencing major abdominal pains, and at the age of 19, she was diagnosed with colon cancer.
“She told me (about her cancer) over the phone while I was at work,” said Ryan Cairel, brother of Roanne and current student at LPC. “I went on break when she called me, and I was devastated.”
Over the next few months, rounds of chemotherapy began. The results were always up and down — she would get better, and then she would get worse.
“It was just a roller coaster ride for her,” Ryan said. “It would be good news, and then it would be bad news. They would get rid of the cancer, but it would always come back.”
Despite the cancer, Roanne continued to attend LPC, particularly LPC’s dance department. She was there until 2007, always dancing, even though there were times her situation made it difficult to continue doing so.
“She would have her chemo treatment basically attached to her, and she would tuck it in and still dance,” Ryan said. “(Dancing) was definitely her passion, and she didn’t want to stop.”
About two and a half years after her diagnosis, Roanne into her parents’ home to make driving to the hospital easier. It was then that she decided to stop the chemotherapy.
“It was her decision to stop chemo and to just be at home for the rest of her time,” Ryan said. “She hated going to the hospital all the time and then having to sit there for hours … then coming home feeling all groggy.”
A few months after the decision was made, Roanne passed away at home. It was the day after Christmas and a month before her 25th birthday.
The Roanne Cairel LPC Dance Scholarship began that December. Created by LPC’s former dance instructor Victoria Frye, the scholarship is designed to provide additional opportunities for LPC dance students.
At the beginning of 2012, “Roanne’s Race” was founded. The idea first began with friends and family of Roanne, and then it spread. It is a 5k/10k/run/walk event held at Robertson Park on Nov. 3, sponsored by companies such as Dethrone Royalty Clothing and, more locally, Marcel Orthodontics in Livermore.
“Anything to keep her memory going,” Paiz said. “It’s so important because she touched a lot of people’s lives so everybody wants to be involved.”
Over 170 people have signed up, and over $6,000 has been raised through donations and sponsors. Funds will go to the Colon Cancer Alliance, which specializes in research studies and education for colon cancer.
“They normally suggest that people over 50 get colonoscopies for colon cancer screenings,” Ryan said. “(Roanne) was really young, and it’s starting to become more common in young people.”
Roanne is still touching lives today, both through her memory and through her race. Go to roannesrace.org to register, donate, sponsor or learn more.