By RENEE FITE
Every spring, cancer survivors are celebrated by Relay For Life of Cherokee County and across the U.S.
Last Friday at 6 p.m., the 12-hour, overnight event began with a reception for cancer survivors and their caregivers at the Northeastern State University track. A flag ceremony by local boy scouts and the Cherokee National Youth Choir singing the national anthem opened the event. Cancer survivors walked the first lap, with family and friends celebrating with them and cheering them.
Survivors share their inspirational stories throughout the evening. A beautiful and moving aspect of the evening is the Luminaria Ceremony scheduled at dusk to honor those who have lost their battle with cancer. All night, about 15 teams camped around the track, rotating team members walking around the track.
A reminder cancer can affect people at any age, Sierra Brookshier, now 25, is one-year free of thyroid cancer. She usually comes to the event with her boyfriend, who plays in one of the bands. Friday was her first time to participate as a survivor.
“It’s good to get to see people in the same shape as you. It gives people more hope and you feel like you’re not alone,” Brookshier said.
It was her boyfriend who saw the lump on her throat, Brookshier said. She got it checked out and it ended up being cancer.
“The doctor said it probably started when I was a teenager,” she said.
A survivor walking beside Brookshier, Gerald Buckner, of Stilwell, said his lung cancer is in remission and he’s completing his last treatment.
“I was invited to Relay by the people I get treatment from. It’s enjoyable meeting other people with problems like I have and it’s encouraging to hear other people talk about their survival,” Buckner said.
One of the teams, Warriors of Hope, had two members, Pam Wedding and her aunt, Della Benning, who were checking out the auction items arranged on a trailer.
“We walk for our grandfather, Lino Beaty, who passed away from cancer, and two aunts who are survivors, Mary Heckard and Jackie Kerns,” Wedding said. “We also lost an uncle, Ralph Beaty, to cancer.”
Wedding has been participating for several years in Relay for Life. She started when a co-worker was lost to cancer.
“This event brings the community out to honor those who have survived cancer, and to raise money together for research,” Wedding said.
Benning’s concern is that so many in her family have been hit by cancer, Benning said.
“It seems to go more in some families than others,” she said. “I do get checked out. I go again in August.”
Melody Bolding was volunteering for the fourth year, her third as captain of the Methodists in Motion team.
“Look at all these survivors,” Bolding said. “We participate to honor survivors, remember our lost loved ones and to continue the fight for a cure.”
Sheryl Rountree participated with her two-year-old grandson, Eli Rountree, for his “papa” Randy, a survivor.
“My husband Randy is a survivor, and we’re here to celebrate life and the gift God gave each of us and the survivors and to celebrate the lives of those who had a challenge with cancer and are now celebrating with the Lord,” Rountree said.
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