NINE years ago the Horsham and District Relay for Life was a first date for Horsham couple Doug and Mel Ritchie.
But the event touches the pair for a different reason this year - Mr Ritchie is halfway through chemotherapy for testicular cancer.
Mrs Ritchie and the couple's eldest daughter Olivia, 7, will walk as part of the Holy Trinity Lutheran School relay team.
Mr Ritchie will be at home with the couple's three other children, recovering from the gruelling treatment.
It has been a whirlwind experience for the couple.
Mr Ritchie said the first sign something was wrong came in December.
He said a routine vasectomy had complications and was followed with an orchiectomy - the removal of a testicle.
"It's not one of those things you imagine as a 38-year-old bloke," he said.
"By the end of the year I was facing this. In early January I found out that I had testicular cancer."
Mr Ritchie said an inoperable tumour in his lymph gland required chemotherapy.
"I've gone very quickly from being told I need a little bit of quiet 'mop-up' chemo, to suddenly having to race into work and say I've got to take time off, I'm going to go through chemo," he said.
"You know it's good for you but it's bloody awful stuff."
Mr Ritchie has six weeks left of treatment.
He said he had always supported events such as Relay for Life and groups such as Wimmera Against Cancer in Kids.
But he said he had never fully comprehended cancer until he faced it himself.
"It's a very, very different, surreal experience," he said.
"I've been there as a friend and supported people as a friend.
"It's not until you're sitting there and going through treatment yourself that you realise what it's all like."
Mrs Ritchie said tonight's relay took on a new meaning for her. "We're wearing the carers sashes this year," she said. "It hits home a little bit."
Mr Ritchie said his younger brother had also battled testicular cancer. "Five or six years later I'm in the same boat," he said.
"If I hadn't gone in for the vasectomy, who knows? I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary."
He encouraged people to schedule regular check-ups and blood tests to keep their health as a priority.
Mr Ritchie said his children - including Jameson, 4, Ebony, 2, and Edan, 1 - kept him strong.
"My eldest is seven, Olivia, and it's taken a little while for it to sink in with her," he said.
"It's been a lot of talking and a lot of her coming to the hospital at night. She's come to acceptance.
"The other three children just know they get to play with dad during the day now because he's not at work.
"They know dad had to shave his beard and hair.
"They're what pull us through - the kids get me through and out the other end without being too whingey."
Doctors believe Mr Ritchie has a 90 per cent chance of cure.
"It's awesome to be told that," he said. "I've gone into the whole thing positive."
The Ritchies encouraged people to support the Relay for Life tonight.