CANCER was so much of an after thought 30 years ago, Donna Kirkland laughed when she first heard the words.
It took a good minute for the news to hit home.
Back then, at just 18, it wasn't that word of horror it is today and she didn't understand it.
"I think I was naive," the Rockhampton woman said.
"So my first response was to laugh. Then my doctor told me how serious it was."
Relay For Life
- Where: Colts Rugby Union Oval
- When: 2pm Saturday until 8am Sunday
- On the day registration for $40
- For more about Cancer Council Queensland, visit cancerqld.org.au or call 13 11 20.
Fortunately for Donna, the pap smear that detected her cervical cancer, caught her illness early enough and she survived.
This weekend she will be one of the 1,200 participants in the Cancer Council's Rockhampton Relay For Life.
She had the honour of being the Face of Cancer last year and an ambassador in 2015.
Donna feels her situation was uncommon and wants to drum home her message.
"Early detection. That is the message I want to bring," the mother of six said.
"People need to take advantage of the preventative measures and education that is available now.
"The breast screening, the bowel screening, it all helps, go see a doctor. It is all integral to saving a person's life."
The most significant moment of the weekend for Donna will be the survivors lap.
"It is a lap of honour for survivors and their carers. They start the whole relay and we stand and cheer them," she said.
"It is special. We all come together and bond.
"For a lot of people it is therapy. It starts out as this really big grieving process and being surrounded with people in a similar fate is part of the healing process.
"I'd love nothing more than the whole community to get involved in this wonderful fund raiser."
The Cancer Council Queensland event will kick off at Colts Rugby Union Oval at 2pm on Saturday, May 20, before the event comes to a close at 8am, Sunday, May 21.
Wet weather is forecast for the weekend but rain, hail or shine the relay will go on.