ELKINS - More than a dozen Relay For Life teams, cancer survivors, family members, friends and supporters gathered Saturday for the Randolph County Relay For Life.
Their goal was to raise funds and awareness for cancer research, educate people on the early signs and symptoms of cancer and celebrate life with cancer survivors.
A year of planning, organizing and hard work went in to executing this year's Relay - and this year, Randolph County Relay teams and survivors were from both Randolph and Tucker counties. Team Full of Hope gathered Friday at midnight in Parsons to begin their trek to the Elkins event.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Hundreds gather in Elkins Town Square Saturday for the Relay For Life, helping raise funds and awareness for cancer research and education. Cancer survivors kicked off the event, making the first lap of the relay.
"We started our journey at midnight and walked down the rail trail toward the Relay event," said Elkins resident Mary Kniffen. "The weather could not have been any better."
Folks cheered Team Full of Hope members early Saturday morning as they took their last steps of a 25 mile journey to the Relay. Kniffen said the walk was good until the sun started coming up.
"The walk was good, the trail was great," Kniffen said. "The goal of our walk was to take steps to raise funds and awareness of cancer - we walked through the night to remind folks that cancer never sleeps."
Cancer survivors and their caregivers, friends and family began gathering before noon for a luncheon prepared by Davis Medical Center. Survivors were treated to a luau theme at the Hawaiian Island. The luncheon afforded survivors time to talk with one another and share their stories will celebrating another year of living.
Cancer survivor Delsey Corley said she started her battle with cancer in 1996. She and her sister, mother, grandmother and great grandmother all had breast cancer. Corley attended Relay this year with her sister, Dolly Reed, and mother, Ruth Reed.
"Get mammograms each year for sure," Corley shared. "If you have any kind of lump, have it removed."
Tucker county resident and cancer survivor Roxanne Bright said she was walking during the Relay with her father, who is also a cancer survivor.
"I was diagnosed in 2011 and my dad was diagnosed last year," Bright said. "I had ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is one of the more obscure cancers because it masks itself with other symptoms. I had an amazing doctor - she sent me to another physician and I had surgery. I am grateful to her because she did not stop until I had my diagnosis."
Bright said her cancer was detected early. She said she feels incredibly blessed to be a survivor and wants to be a voice about cancer.
"I have become very pro-ovarian cancer and have been sharing information to help folks know to have things checked out," Bright said. "I want to get my voice out there so women know the symptoms and can be checked if they have early signs of the disease."
Bright said early signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, back pain, loss of appetite and frequent urination.
"Today I am celebrating three years cancer-free," Bright said. "I am incredibly grateful."
Randolph County Relay For Life Director Judy Ritchie said the event is the American Cancer Society's signature event, not just to raise funds, but to aware awareness.
Matt Scott, a cancer survivor, shared his story with those gathered at Saturday's event.
"I am blessed to be here today as your survivor speaker," Scott said. "May marks my four year anniversary as a survivor."
Scott said testicular cancer mostly affects men age 20 to 30, and one of the largest symptoms is pain.
"The biggest thing I can say is the great support system we have here in Randolph County," Scott said. "That was the main thing that got me through this. I had the support of friends, family and people I did not even know. I got anonymous money in the mail because people knew I had no health insurance. It was an enormous overwhelming feeling, and I try to pay that forward as much as possible."
Scott said in the United States, there are more than 13 million cancer survivors.
"We have a good little fraction of those right here today," Scott said. "It makes me happy to see folks come together here today and all across the country when it comes to events like this."
Margaret Stalnaker also spoke about her recent battle with cancer.
"I never thought I would be up here giving a first person account of my fight with cancer," Stalnaker said. "After I was diagnosed, my world was turned upside down, but I was overwhelmed by support by my family and friends."
Stalnaker said she has made it through because she is not doing this alone. She will have her final treatment this week.
The first Relay For Life lap was composed of cancer survivors. The group was met with tears of joy and clapping as they looped those gathered for the event. Caregivers for those survivors and other cancer patients joined for the second lap and all Relay for Life team members joined in the third lap.
At dusk, folks lighted luminaries in honor and in memory of those whose lives were touched by cancer. Randolph County Relay for Life ended at midnight, but the fight against cancer looms on.