Faces of cancer survival unite

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

The faces of cancer survivors were as varied as the flower seeds placed on the table, part of the theme, “Planting Seeds of Hope.”

Relay for Life held its annual Cancer Survivors Banquet on Tuesday at the Morgan Convention Center. Proceeds from the event go toward cancer survivors in Dallas County for programs such as “Look Good…Feel Better,” which helps cancer patients deal with changes in their physical appearance as they undergo treatments, and “Road to Recovery,” which provides transportation for cancer patients.

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Last year, Dallas County cancer patients and their families were able to save nearly $107,000 in travel and hotel expenses by staying at the Joe Griffin Hope Lodge in Birmingham while they were undergoing medical treatment. The Lodge is funded by donations to the American Cancer Society.

“One thing I can say to the community is this is a community event and the funds are used to help survivors,” Relay for Life chair Sherri James said. “There are so many programs that are funded by [donations]. We would love to have community support, through either sponsorship or activities.”

Survivors were diverse in age, background and race. Types of cancer patients have overcome included breast, thyroid, colon, uterine, ovarian, cervical, lung and prostate.

Jessica Garrard, American Cancer Society representative, and speaker Veronica Brown gave words of encouragement to survivors during the program.

“God didn’t leave you here to not tell somebody,” Brown said. “You’re here to tell somebody your story.”

Garrard defined what constitutes a cancer survivor.

“Many people ask, who is a cancer survivor,” Garrard said. “It is defined by the American Cancer Society as anyone who is facing cancer from the time they are diagnosed until the time they face death.”

Garrard emphasized that when someone is diagnosed with cancer, they are living with cancer, not dying from cancer, and there is a difference.

Patty Sexton, who works for the Selma Office of Planning and Development and is a cancer survivor herself, gave a special challenge to the men in attendance: spread the word about Relay for Life.

Her words were met with wholehearted agreement.

“We’d like to see more men survivors at our events,” James said. “Men don’t like to talk about it. We know there are a lot out there, and there are a lot in this county. We’d just like to see them more active.”

Friday, a Survivors’ Reception will be held at the Ramshack Room in Memorial Stadium at 5 p.m. The Relay will begin at 6 p.m. with a Survivors’ Lap around the track.

Activities during the event include a hula hoop/twist contest and sack race.