Relay for Life
By Shavonne Potts
Jacqueline Machner doesn’t have a stomach. Her food goes straight to her intestine. She weighs about 20 pounds less than she used to. Each day she takes 17 different medicines. But she’s alive and that is her miracle.
Machner, of Kannapolis, was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma or stomach cancer. Flash forward three years later, she’s one among the hundreds of cancer survivors who walked Friday during the opening ceremony for the 14th annual Relay for Life of Rowan County.
It began when she was having stomach pain. The mother of four thought she had an ulcer and went to her doctor for tests.
“I thought it was my death sentence. I felt very hopeless,” she said, making her final lap around the track.
The news was an absolute shock and left her in fear for her family, particularly for her husband, John, and four sons.
“I didn’t want to tell anybody. I didn’t want to hurt my family members,” Machner said.
It was John who told their sons who were 16, 18, 20 and 22 at the time.
Machner, who is the youngest of eight children, said her family reacted with absolute shock, but with love and support.
The family was already reeling from the loss of their cousin, who died at 32 from cancer a year before. The loss and the knowledge that the cousin left behind her 8-year-old son, was still fresh for Machner.
“There was a lot of confusion. You go from confusion to acceptance until you get to being so mad. It makes you mad that you say I can’t give up,” she said.
Machner believes that God wouldn’t have taken her through this trying time if she couldn’t handle it.
“What you think you can’t go through, God lifts you up,” she said.
She also made it through with the support from friends and family.
“You draw on strength from everybody when you don’t have it,” Machner said, reaching out to new friend and cancer survivor Barbara Howell.
“There’s a bond that’s unexplainable,” she said.
This is the first time Machner participated in the Relay for Life event.
As Machner walked through the gates for the opening ceremonies, she met Barbara and her husband Scott.
The two women, who declared they are instant friends, vowed to keep in contact.
Barbara Howell is a breast cancer survivor of seven years. She’s wanted to participate in the Relay event for quite awhile.
“It’s a whirlwind when you first hear that word,” Howell said.
Today, Howell is healthy and glad to “go on living,” she said.
She gets support from others and spreads inspiration to others with cancer.
“Now I’m grateful to God,” Howell said.
“I thank God every day I still have her,” Scott Howell said.
Judy Callicutt found out she had breast cancer over the phone from her doctor’s office.
“I was just blank. I was wondering how this type of thing could happen,” she said dabbing away tears with tissue.
No one else in her family had cancer. Callicutt was the first.
She is now an eight-year survivor. She and her husband, Mike, have participated in the Relay For Life event for four years.
They participate to “let people know its’ possible to work through this,” she said.
As Callicutt marched around the track, her cheering section ó members of her church, Salem Lutheran of Salisbury ó screamed her name.
“You just have to keep the faith,” Callicutt added.
James Phelps, of Rockwell, is a nine-year survivor of carcinoid syndrome, a type of cancer that attacked his stomach and liver.
“It’s a slow-growing type,” he said.
Stomach problems and a doctor confirmed Phelps’ worst fear.
He didn’t have to undergo chemotherapy, but did and still does undergo an injection every 28 days and periodic CT scans to monitor any changes.
Phelps and his wife have participated in the annual fundraising event for five years and before that they participated in the Concord-area Relay event.
He said it made him feel good to know the people on the sidelines cheering for him, care.
“We need to find a cure,” Phelps said.
Margaret Donaldson is glad for the small things in life. She loves to hear the birds “singing in the morning.
“I feel good to know God has spared me,” she said.
Donaldson is a breast cancer survivor of 15 years. She found out through a mammogram, medical technology that she is grateful for.
She underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She’s been a part of the fundraiser for 10 years.
The Salisbury resident said when she first learned of her diagnosis, she prayed.
“I gave it to God,” she said.
Donaldson was the first of her five sisters to be diagnosed with cancer. The support they gave her was the same support she offered them.
“I tell them to enjoy life and to get early mammograms,” said.
Her niece, Arlette Oglesby, Salisbury, also supports Relay for Life.
You can’t miss the Sweet Potato Queens, a group of energetic women with brightly colored red wigs.
The group was first formed in 2003 and since that time they’ve raised $80,000 for Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society.
They were one of the top-earning teams this year.
“We have some survivors and have had two that passed away,” said member Ann Teague of Rockwell.
The group said they believe that every dollar raised gets one minute closer to a cure.
This year’s top Relay for Life teams are:
– Elementary School, Knollwood Elementary School.
– Middle School, West Rowan Middle School.
– High School, West Rowan High School.
– Church, Christ United Methodist Church.
– Friends and Family, Sweet Potato Queens
– Business, F&M Bank
– Friends and Family Rookies, Derek and Friends.
– Business Rookie, Duran, Shelby, Pethel & Hudson, PA.
For more information about Relay for Life, visit www. relayforlife.org.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.