Hundreds of cancer survivors, caregivers, friends, medical staff and concerned community members gathered Saturday at the Elkins High School track for the Randolph County Relay For Life.
Cancer survivors were welcomed at the Davis Memorial Hospital Cancer Care Center tent, where they received a purple survivor's shirt, gifts and lunch. Cancer Care Center employee Jenna Enke registered and greeted each survivor.
"The Relay For Life and the survivor lunch is important to participants," Enke said. "It lets survivors know that the community is also coming together to support them."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Cancer survivors, caregivers and others take part in Saturday’s Relay For Life event at the Elkins High School track. The event kicked off with a survivor lap, which was followed by a caregivers lap and a lap made by all those attending the Relay For Life. More photos are available at cu.theintermountain.com.
Enke said almost a hundred survivors registered during the day's events.
Following lunch, two Highlander bagpipers, Tom McLaughlin and Matt Fair, led participants in the survivor's lap. Following the survivor's lap, patient caregivers made a lap. The third lap was for everyone attending to support the fight against cancer.
Guest speaker Dr. William McBee is a gynecological oncologist at Monongalia General Hospital in Morgantown.
"I thought it important to come here today to speak to everyone for many reasons," McBee said. "Lots of these folks are my patients, and I want folks to know that the money they raise here not only helps with local groups to support cancer patients, but also helps support research, helping us learn how to better treat cancer, thus increasing survivorship among cancer patients."
McBee said the survival rate for ovarian cancer in 1980 was two years. Now the survival rate for ovarian cancer is about six to eight years.
"This increase in length of survival is directly related to funds community members raise at events such as the Relay For Life," McBee said. "There is a direct impact on the improvement in outcomes."
McBee said some of the goals of the American Cancer Society are to improve the quality of life, improve education and help with support groups.
McBee also advises patients to be aware of their own bodies.
"Be sure to have your checkups and report any unusual signs and symptoms to your physician,'" he said. "Also be sure to eat healthy and decrease known risks that make you more susceptible to cancer."
He recommends exercising and quitting smoking.
Other activities during the day included Zumba dancing, a performance by the Sonshine puppets, games, luminaries at dusk, prayer circles, food and drink sales, a performance by No One You Know Band and many other fun activities.
At the Citizens Bank of West Virginia tent, team members including Debbi Swiger were busy selling raffle tickets and making fruit smoothies.
"We are happy to be here supporting everyone who has been touched by cancer," Swiger said. "Our team will be here until midnight."
Dr. Anne Banfield, co-chairperson for the Randolph County Relay For Life, thanked everyone who volunteered to help make the event a success. She also thanked her co-chairperson Kristy Kirkpatrick and other Relay for Life committee members for their hard work, including Shelley Hornick, Mike Lambert, Judy Ritchie, Glenda Matthew, Steve Metheny, Lorraine Metheny, Linda Lambert and Peggy Blosser.
Cancer survivors Denise and Jeff Cooper said they have attended the Randolph County Relay For Life every year since 2001.
"The event is such a great celebration," the Coopers said. "Some years we have even had teams."
Denise Cooper said she and her husband traveled to Duke University in North Carolina for treatments.
"We decided we would read the New Testament as we traveled," she said. "After about an hour of reading, I turned on the car radio, but it quit working."
Jeff Cooper said he had the car radio fixed, and on their next trip, Denise read from the Bible for about an hour before turning on the car radio again.
"The radio played for just a short while, then quit," she said. "Our daughter gave us a portable radio to use, and again, we read for an hour and turned on the portable radio. It quit working almost immediately even though we put in brand new batteries."
"I said, 'OK Lord, I get your message,'" she said.
The Coopers agree that they are fortunate and live each day to the fullest. They are both cancer-free and say to trust in God if you are facing cancer.
"Don't sit around and feel sorry for yourself," Jeff Cooper said. "Trust in God, trust your doctors and surround yourself with positive thinkers."
Many people like the Coopers help to make Relay For Life a success.
Mike Alkire, American Cancer Society community manager, said Randolph County consistently raises more than $100,000 each year.
"We have 23 dedicated teams with more than 240 participants who are passionate about raising money for the event. It seems the event is turning out well," Alkire said.
Alkire said a training session will be held July 9 for those interested in the Look Good, Feel Better program. For additional information, anyone interested can contact Davis Memorial Hospital at 304-636-3300.