Beating cancer will take everyone's help

Published 7:51 pm Monday, June 21, 2004

By Staff
Lindsey Sherrill
About a week ago I went to the doctor for a persistent sore throat I've been dealing with. After peering down my throat, the doctor said, "Well, it's not cancer."
I imagine I don't have to tell you how hearing that word applied, even in a negative sense, to my own body terrified me. We've all, in some way or another, been touched by the horrible disease at some point in our lives and, no matter how common it is, the fear it inspires never lessens.
Friday night I attended my first Relay for Life all-night event at Tom Byrne Park. I have to admit, I was a wimp and left at 11 p.m., but the few hours I stayed were enough to give me a taste of how much work goes into Relay, how dedicated the participants are and just how deeply cancer has affected almost all of our lives.
By far the most emotional part of the evening came at 9 p.m. with the luminary ceremony. The lights around the walking track were turned out and candles were lit in over 120 luminaries placed around the track. Each luminary had the name of a cancer victim, "in memory" or "in honor" and the name of the friend or family member who purchased the luminary. The track was walked in complete silence, except for the soft, a capella hymn coming from the gazebo. Some of the participants walked quickly, looking straight ahead, without pausing to read the names. Others went slowly, thoughtfully. Many cried.
I walked around the track twice, slowly, reading all the names. There were very, very few I did not know personally and almost none I did not recognize. I noticed that many of the luminaries had the same names on them, purchased by different people. Many of these names are familiar: John Mims, Laura Nelson, Dylan Adams, Pat Wooten, Austin Baker. I saw the names of people who fought cancer and won, those who are still fighting and those who lost their fights. As I walked I saw the faces of those people in my own life. And when I passed the name of Matthew Billy, who lost his fight when he was just a baby, I started to cry.
It all made me feel really guilty as I remembered a conversation a few months ago with the staff of my college newspaper about how we were all "too busy" to help with Relay. Oops.
Involvement in Relay has gone down the last couple of years, said EdieJackson. Though there are still dedicated, hard working teams and individuals involved, interest seems to have slacked off locally as well as nationally. While this year raised $50,000, compared to the cost of cancer research and treatment today, that's just a drop in the bucket. According to the Cancer Coalition, over $180 billion is spent on treatment alone annually. More people die of cancer annually than have died in U.S. combat this century! With all this in mind, it makes me wonder why fewer people were involved. Why weren't there more people? Why can't we raise $100,000 next year?
This year, all the teams and individuals involved did phenomenal jobs and I give kudos to them all. Congratulations on a job well done. Keep it up!
Lindsey Sherrill is a Staff Writer for the Atmore Advance.

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