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Three close friends. My favorite college professor. A college dorm-mate. The mother of a junior high-school friend I recently found on Facebook. And even one of my first and most beloved cats.

All these amazing individuals died of cancer.

I don’t think there’s a single person in the western world whose life hasn’t been touched by cancer in one way or another. The success of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life cancer research fundraiser is an unfortunate hallmark of that fact.

The Relay for Life is not an occasion of mourning, though: it’s a way to honor the lives of those lost to the battle and the survivors. And the Relay for Life in Rockaway Beach, Oregon, got an extra dose of cute when a pair of cancer survivors brought their cat, Chuck, along for the occasion.

Chuck turned up last fall in a feral cat colony at United Paws of Tillamook rescue organization. Volunteers noticed that the cat had a large tumor on his neck, so they trapped him and took him to a vet, where the tumor was removed and found to be malignant.

After he recovered from his surgery, Chuck was placed in a foster home. Although United Paws hoped someone would adopt him, they knew it was unlikely that an older and special-needs cat would be able to find a home.

But fate was working in Chuck’s favor. A couple spotted him at a United Paws adoption event and read about his history. They themselves were cancer survivors, and they couldn’t pass up the chance to give him a comfortable life.

His new adoptive dad said, After all Chuck had been through, we just wanted to give him a place to relax for the rest of his days, a loving stable home where he would have no more worries.

The couple knows Chuck’s cancer may return someday. It’s a chance all cancer survivors — and caretakers of cancer-surviving pets — know entirely too well. My fellow cat blogger, Robin Olson of Covered in Cat Hair, has been documenting the journey of her own cat, Bob, as he goes through chemotherapy to keep his cancer at bay. It’s a huge emotional and financial struggle, and Robin’s updates on Bob’s battle with lymphoma are alternately gut-wrenching and inspiring.

As for Chuck — he’s healthy now, and I certainly hope he enjoyed having the honor of being his new adopters’ Relay for Life mascot.

The next time I walk in the Relay for Life in the dark of night and through the wee hours of the morning, my path lit by thousands of candles honoring the victims — and the survivors — in the battle against cancer, I’ll be thinking not only of my beloved friends whose lives were taken by this awful disease, but of a pair of cats and their loving, devoted caretakers.