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Celebrating hope and heroes

This is the second 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.
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Donna Lyerly of Salisbury wrote:
I am a breast cancer “survivor.” It is wonderful to be able to say this!
Almost 14 years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and a carcinoid in my lung. I was 37 and the mother of 2-year-old triplets (identical girls).
It was a scary time for me and my family, not knowing what the future would hold. Did I have a future? Would I be able to raise my daughters?
So yes, being a survivor is wonderful. It means that I did have a future and I have been able to watch my babies grow into beautiful young ladies that I am very proud of. God has truly blessed me.
Many years ago, Sheila Mulkey invited me to be a survivor on her Relay for Life team. She told me a little about Relay, but I really didn’t know what to expect.
I was so nervous walking that first Survivor Lap. Since then, I have walked that first lap every year. I am active on the Relay Committee and serve as co-captain of the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Relay team.
This is my way to give back, fight back against this disease and to help those now fighting cancer and to honor those who have lost the battle. I do this to find a cure.
Relay is an amazing event. I encourage all survivors to register and come walk that first lap with me on May 1 at 6 p.m. at the fairgrounds. Bring your family and friends to this community event.
Come out and support Relay. Help us find a cure.
***
Tyler Mulkey of Wildwood Drive and a seventh-grader at North Rowan Middle School wrote:
I started going to Relay with my mom when I was 4 years old. I’ve been raising money since I was about 7.
I started Relaying because I had many family members and friends who had battled cancer. My brother, Eric, had melanoma when he was 23 and that just gave me more motivation to raise money to find a cure.
For the past four years, I have been part of the Grand Relay Club by raising at least $1,000. There are many different ways I raise money.
I send letters to my family members and friends asking for donations to the American Cancer Society. I also put a flyer on my neighbors’ mailboxes explaining the “Paint the County Purple” day and asking if they would be interested in making a $5 donation for a purple bow to display on their mailboxes to show support for cancer victims and Relay for Life.
On the back of that flyer, I let them know that a $10 donation would allow them to honor or remember a cancer victim with a luminary placed around the track at Relay. If you are interested in participating in Paint the County Purple or buying a luminary, please visit the Rowan County Relay web page at www.relayforlife.org/rowan.
Besides being a great cause, Relay is fun. We try to stay up all night, and there are lots of games and music to keep us awake.
I plan to keep on Relaying and raising money until we find a cure for cancer. The ultimate goal for all of us who Relay is finding a cure.
***
Helen B. Miller of Highway 601 North, Salisbury, wrote:
On Tuesday, April 7, I was asked to write a short story about Relay.
It is ironic that on this day 10 years ago, my dear, precious, only son lost his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoblastic lymphoma. Having been diagnosed in November 1994, Dean was given a five-year survival estimate.
He was in Forsyth Memorial Hospital when some of the nurses told him that they were starting a Relay for Life in Winston-Salem. He related this to his coworkers at AT&T Credit Union, and they formed a team.
Dean loved being part of the team and worked diligently while he was able, serving on committees, speaking to other companies about Relay and helping in any way he could.
I retired in 1995 and a few months later, became employed part time with Food Lion Credit Union. After being there a few short months, Dean relapsed and needed a bone-marrow transplant to survive.
Time did not allow for a donor search, so he used his own marrow which was successful for a couple of years. I continued to feel blessed working for a company that became like family, showing compassion and love and full support of us during my days of unexpected tears as well as the happy days, even forming a Relay team.
On April 7, 1999, Dean’s heart stopped beating, and our hearts were broken. He considered having cancer a blessing as he made so many new friends while in the hospital. Other patients and their families still remain close to us today.
Dean touched so many lives during his short life on earth and often wondered “why” when we reminded him that God had left him here for a reason. I truly believe that I learned through his illness to continue as a Relay person to give of my time and energy to visit those lonely and in need as they suffer and deal with cancer.
Our hope is that no family has to know the heartache of losing a child to cancer. Each year, Relay reminds us that research continues and that cures are being found to decrease deaths.
Money raised at these events assist those in need as well as grants for research. Dean loved the Relay each year and worked hard so that the American Cancer Society would have more funds to help end this dreaded disease.
My husband, Tommy, daughter Paige and grandsons Bryce and Tyler attend Relays in Winston-Salem, Mocksville, Greensboro and Salisbury. Dean always reminded people that if they would attend one time, they would return every year to share the love, hope and fun found at Relay.
Even now, 10 years later, we can still feel his presence and remember that someday we will see him again. We know that each May he is looking down on Relay with a twinkle in his eye and a big happy smile.
We invite you all to come just one time and see the love and hope of Relay.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.
 

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