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Relay For Life notches win against cancer

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Geoff Hamill, Editor

By Geoff Hamill

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has waged war on the dangerous disease for 100 years. Victories in the war have become more common - thanks, in large part, to the society’s fundraising efforts. On Friday and Saturday, members of the community won a battle in the war against cancer at St. Catherine’s College, where cancer survivors, caregivers, friends and family members rallied for the annual Relay For Life.
Event committee member Peggy Mattingly, of Springfield, described how Relay works.
“We have teams and each team raises money,” she said. “Some do it all year long. Some of them do it just so many months. They do roadblocks. They do bake sales, car washes, softball games, tournaments and lots of stuff.
“It just makes me feel great to do it,” she said. “I just feel like I’m making people aware and maybe helping somebody along the way.”
ACS senior community representative Vickie Grassman helped organize this year’s event.
“We have 14 teams that signed up,” she said. “They are businesses – Toyotomi and INOUAC had teams. St. Catherine’s College had a team. Friends and families had teams. Several Washington County schools have teams. They’ve been raising money all year and they’re out here with their camp sites decorated, selling things and having a good time tonight.”
Grassman said the funds support a variety of activities.
“The county usually raises between $35,000-40,000, which is fantastic, and that goes to the American Cancer Society’s mission of saving lives,” she said.  “A great portion of it goes to our research programs. A lot of it goes to education to help people with cancer prevention and to direct patient services, for our support groups, transportation to and from treatment, and that kind of thing.”
As of Friday evening, the goal was in reach, according to the organizer.
“We’re looking good,” she said. So far, we’ve raised about $21,000 and – it depends on how tonight goes – but everybody’s doing a great job out here.”
Grassman said 2013 is a milestone year for the ACS.
“The American Cancer Society celebrated its 100th birthday this year,” she said. “A hundred years ago, nearly everyone who had cancer died. Now, two out of three people survive. We’re one of the few organizations in the world that is working to put ourselves out of business.”
Connie Mackin, of Springfield, was leading the Smith family team.
“My mom, Mary Virginia Smith, passed away in 2004 of non-Hodgkins lymphoma,” she said. “After that time, our family got together and decided that we were going to start a team, in her honor. We do it every year. We’re all family. There are over 30 of us.
“We hope to someday find a cure for cancer. We hope that that’s coming and I have seen advances in it. We have so many more cancer drugs, so hopefully, there is a cure out there.”
Ruth Ann Osbourne, of Springfield, said she was grateful for help she received when she had cancer.
“I’m a survivor,” she said. “I had help when I had my cancer and any support I can give to someone else – that’s what I want to do.  I know what it meant to me. I’m here to walk to help support survivors and I’ve not missed any Relay, except for one, and that was the night before my son got married.”

Osbourne’s granddaughter and Relay teammate, Marion Osbourne, survived a bout with melanoma.
“I get joy from knowing that I’m helping to raise money and celebrating those that are here,” she said. “I’m touched by it personally, with my sister and my grandmother. I also help take care of a cancer patient, right now. I’m pretty touched by it everywhere.”
Diann Royalty, of Willisburg, discovered a lump in her breast and sought treatment.  
“I am a breast cancer survivor,” she said. “I found it by taking a bath one night, on my own.  It goes to show you that women need to examine themselves, because they never know – someday, they might find something. Some people are afraid of their bodies or think, ‘it could never happen to me.’ You never know. You need to examine yourself, look at your body and know what your body is telling you.”
Royalty said cancer treatment does not necessarily mean long-term unemployment.
“I am a bus driver,” she said. “I was out for five weeks for surgery. Then, I had seven weeks of radiation, Monday through Friday. I drove my school bus in the morning. I went for radiation in Danville, came back, and drove my bus that afternoon. I did not miss a day in seven weeks of driving a school bus. I was not going to let that get me down.”
Royalty and her daughter-in-law, Melinda Royalty, made two beautiful quilts, that were raffled to raise money for Relay.
Grassman stressed the importance of early detection.
“One of the great fears out there is that people just don’t want to know,” she said. “The earlier they can detect it, the more treatable, the more survivable it is. So, we’re constantly getting that word out.
“And that’s actually why we have more survivors now – because people know. At 50 years old – they know they need to get a colonoscopy. So, colon cancer has become virtually curable, because people are catching it years earlier, when it is curable. The same with breast cancer and skin cancer - people are getting those screenings – those lifesaving screenings.
For information on cancer prevention and how to get involved with Realy For Life, see the ACS website at cancer.org