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Celebrating hope and heroes

This is the fourth in a series of personal stories on “Why I Relay” from people whose lives have been touched by cancer. These will run up until the 2009 Rowan County Relay for Life fundraiser on May 1-2.
Dr. Gregory C. Mitro of Salisbury, who is the medical director of Radiation Oncology at Rowan Regional Medical Center, wrote:I deal with cancer every day.
I prescribe radiation treatments aimed at eradicating cancer or sometimes just making cancer-related symptoms better. There is a tremendous amount of data generated every day regarding treatment. New techniques, new drugs, new technologies are developed and advertised to be the next breakthrough.
Some of these work, some don’t. We sift through the available data and work to provide the best plan of treatment for each patient. What I have learned over the years is that we need to be diligent about evaluating and understanding the data, but we need to be just as diligent in understanding our patients.
So much talk is about the cancer (what type is it? how aggressive? what stage?…) that sometimes we forget to talk about the PEOPLE.
The Relay For Life is beautiful to me because it focuses on the PEOPLE. It focuses on life. It is a remembrance of those who have fought the battle and a celebration of those who continue to fight the battle.
It helps me remember what life, cancer and treatment are really all about. It is about the people and families we meet every day. The Relay helps to ground me and helps me to see what is truly important in my own life.
I want to thank all of the people and families I have met through my position and personally. You have all helped to shape the person I am. Thank you.

Molly Cogburn, a 15-year-old freshman at West Rowan High School, wrote:
I have two main reasons behind my motivation to participate in Relay for Life. My grandmother, Brenda Ritter, was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2003, when she was only 54 years of age.
Doctors claimed she required multiple surgeries and seemingly ceaseless months of tiring chemotherapy. The horrid time came when our family almost gave up hope.
Thanks to numerous prayers and generous donations from the public, research was continued, allowing the discovery of a hormone therapy that began my grandmother’s recovery. The hormone performed a miracle, defeating the disease.
On Jan. 22, 2007, she received results from a prior scan proving that all traces of the cancer had disappeared. To this day, there is still no sign of cancer.
My best friend’s father, Brian McNeely, was not as fortunate in his fight. He passed away five years ago. I never met him, although I would love to have had the opportunity.
However, I see the wonderful people he left behind and the impact he had on their lives. Losing someone is such a tragedy, especially if that someone was so young and amazing as everyone has told me he was.
I can only give my sympathy to those who know a victim of this horrible disease and support Relay for Life so that the numbers will dwindle. I want to help cancer patients win their battle and come out on top.

Chad Crainshaw, assistant chief of Bostian Heights Fire Department and co-captain of The Heights Relay for Life team, wrote:
Once, I heard the statistic that one in four people would be affected by cancer.
That was pretty scary, but I did not step up at that time. Sometime in 1996, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
This was a pretty devastating blow, especially after losing my dad in 1995. After surgery and a lot of treatments she was clear for some time.
In 2001, she was re-diagnosed with the same type cancer found in her liver. After a long, tough fight, the cancer took her away from us in April of 2004.
In this same time frame, and even to this day, I have had close friends and family affected by this cruel disease, including several who have lost their battle. Some are winning, which proves that Relay is a worthwhile event.
We have to move on to try to do our part in fighting this deadly disease.
Why do I Relay? To honor my mother, Diann Crainshaw.
I also Relay with the hope that no more people will have to go through what a lot of us have already gone through. I have a 20-month-old son that I think the world of, and it is my hope that things will get better so that he can grow up not having to lose friends and family to this cruel disease.
In memory of: Diann C., Scott D., Worth E., Frank T, Ray B. and David K.
In honor of: Kay N., Karen K., John F and Susan L.

Jenny Horton of Mount Ulla, who is a school counselor/testing coordinator at West Rowan Middle School, wrote:
I participate in Relay for Life because cancer snuck its way into my life at age 5 when my father was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder.
Frequent doctor visits and hospital stays were a common part of my childhood. My mother would always say that we needed to make sure each Christmas and holiday was extra special because it could be his last.
Little did I know that she would be the one that cancer would take first. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 14, and it took her life 14 months later when she was 47.
My father lived for three more years, but died on Thanksgiving of my freshman year in college.
Each birthday, I worry about inching toward the age of 47. It is my most unfavorite number.
Although cancer took my parents, it never took my spirit. I did not allow the loss to depress me or slow me down.
Participating in Relay allows me to honor my parents by raising money and awareness toward finding a cure for this awful disease. Six years ago, I decided to form a team of students at West Rowan Middle School, where I am a school counselor.
We call ourselves “Paws for Life” since our mascot is the bulldog. Over these few years, I have worked with some amazing and dedicated young people. Most everyone participated because they, too, had a friend or relative affected by cancer.
My two older children, Brantley and Mary Allison, were a part of the team. Although they never were able to know my mother and dad, they honor their dad’s parents, Jimmy and Betty Horton, who are both cancer survivors. I am proud that they continue to participate with the Relay Team at West Rowan High School along with countless other former Paws for Life team members.
It is truly a blessing that so many students at West continue the fight in high school and have such a successful team as well. I am so proud of all our members, both past and present.
In only five years, the Paws for Life team has raised $67,587.17. That is an amazing number, considering we are a team made up of mostly seventh- and eighth-grade students, not a large business that can get matching funds from the corporate office.Our goal this year is to pass the $75,000 dollar mark. Even with the economic troubles that many are facing, we still find that people are willing to give to such a worthwhile cause.
That gives us hope. I am honored and inspired daily as together we work to find a cure for something so life-altering.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.
 
 

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