Fayette Relay for Life volunteers raise $400K for cancer research
Relay for Life events always have a two-fold purpose that combines a fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society (ASC) with a time for local people to fellowship with each other, to celebrate the lives of cancer survivors in the community and to remember those who have passed on.
For Fayette County, this year’s event at the Kiwanis fairgrounds over the weekend marked the county’s 16th Annual Relay for Life, with more than 400 survivors and caregivers joined by countless others and more than $400,000 raised for ACS.
By any estimation, Relay events are completely unique. They are at once a mixture of poignant reflection and unbridled comedy, of laughter and tears, of the contemplation of the past and the future and of the resolve that proclaims, “I will not go gently into this good night.”
It is difficult to say how many thousands made their way to the event last weekend that began Friday afternoon and and ended Saturday morning. Many of those watched as Hood Avenue Elementary School teacher Kathy Warren and 7-year-old 2010 Ambassador Raman Franklin, both cancer survivors, took the a lap and lit the Relay Torch of Hope.
The torch arrived at the event site after it passed from one survivor to another during its 11-mile trip from Fayetteville.
One of the most memorable events at any Relay is the Survivor’s Lap. And this year, the mass of survivors and caregivers took to the track, cheered on by the swelling crowd that included the members of approximately 100 participating teams.
One of the cancer survivors, 64-year-old Fayetteville resident and former Fayette County Board of Education member Darryl Chaney took a few minutes to talk about the surgery that removed a tumor found in a salivary gland under his right jaw in 2002.
Chaney said that, in 2005, cancer was found in his left lung followed by a small tumor in his right lung in 2007 and another in the salivary gland in 2008.
“They all came from the lung. And I never smoked,” Chaney explained, adding his belief that some people are more inclined to get cancer due to environmental causes, the food they eat and their habits and experiences, in that order.
Another survivor at the event was Fayetteville resident Doris Prince, who said she was “too much of a lady to give her age.” Looking hardly a day over 30, Prince said she learned of her stage 3 breast cancer after a mammogram in March 2006 and a subsequent biopsy.
“There was no lump and no physical evidence except what the mammogram showed. Within a month I got the surgery and had 32 days of radiation. And I was back in church in two weeks,” Prince said smiling and reflecting on the cancer that had entered her life.
“You know you have it and you know you have to do something about it. And the treatments drain your energy. When they broke the news to me I would cry sometimes, but my older sister told me I handled it better than anybody she knew. Being a Christian and having church members at Fayetteville First Baptist backing me up and praying for me, it means a lot. I never thought I was going to die. And after talking with my minister I had no fear of the surgery.”
Yet another survivor at the Relay was 64-year-old Stan Sorrells of Fayetteville. A former Federal Aviation Administration employee, Sorrells was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997. Since that time, and with chemo and radiation, there has been no reoccurrence, he said.
“When the urologist told me, I said, ‘What are my options?’” Sorrells said, also commenting on how he handled the news. “Hardly anybody knew about it outside my family. Everybody deals with cancer their own way. Maybe it’s just me, but if it’s my time to go I’m not worried about it.”
The many events of the Relay continued throughout the night and into Saturday morning. For those yet to experience it, a Relay for Life is a one-of-a-kind event that, at some point, everyone should attend.
Earnings from the event will be used by the American Cancer Society to fund advocacy efforts, make important services available to cancer patients and their families, and will be used to fund cancer prevention efforts and cancer treatments.
Looking to next year, Rep. Matt Ramsey announced that the 2011 Fayette County Relay for Life will be held at Falcon Field in Peachtree City. Relay organizers said that for years Fayette County cancer survivors, team members, and the general public have walked laps of the very rough, dusty, grounds of the fairgrounds property. Organizers said they appreciated the use of the former Kiwanis property but they are looking forward to the new venue.
The new Relay location, at Falcon Field, will include a smooth, paved, runway track. The facilities at the airport will be more comfortable for survivors and participants, organizers said, adding the hope that the new venue will attract more corporate supporters and a larger attendance by the residents of Fayette County.
Work on the 2011 Relay For Life of Fayette County will begin immediately. A theme for the event has already been chosen; “The Runway Relay — A Non-Stop ‘Flight’ Against Cancer.”
Those interested in participating in planning the 2011 Relay For Life, or register as a cancer survivor, please contact Kim Westwood, Community Manager at 770-631-0625 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.