05/17/08 — So many steps: Wayne County fights cancer with determination, love

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So many steps: Wayne County fights cancer with determination, love

You see it in the “Why I Relay” buttons on people’s shirts honoring a loved one who has passed on or one who is still fighting cancer.

You see it in the thousands of luminarias that twinkle in the night sky as families, friends and co-workers wipe away tears and share hugs as they remember or honor someone battling or who has battled the disease.

You see it in the balloon release that opens the weekend — white and purple messages of hope heading for the clouds.

You see it in the Survivors’ Lap, the moment when men, women and children of all ages take to the track to celebrate their victories against a deadly disease, while hoping for bright futures.

And you hear it in the stories of those who are brave enough to share what it is like to deal with a cancer diagnosis — or to love someone who is fighting one.

It is all around you at Relay for Life in Wayne County — the spirit of a community united in one goal — to beat a disease that steals years from mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and best friends.

There will likely be an announcement of a record-setting hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for the fight against cancer after this weekend. It is staggering just what this community does. There are many larger ones that simply don’t understand how so small a county could make such an impact.

But if you are one of the thousands of people who take part in the Relay every year, you already know the how and why.

All it takes is heart, determination and, quite simply, love.

The efforts began months ago, with teams coming up with all kinds of ways to raise money. Hours and hours have gone into booth plans and fundraising efforts — all so that this county can stand up and be counted as one of the leaders in the battle against cancer.

And along with every smile, every silly booth and fun fundraiser, tears were shed for those who weren’t able to hang on long enough to be here — who will not be there when the announcement comes that cancer is a thing of the past.

It is for them that Wayne County Relays.

And there are others, too.

This year’s honorary co-chairmen, Cooper Bryan, LaDelle Smothers and Carol Mitchell, represent the heart of the Wayne County Relay for Life. They are fighting, have fought or have won their battles with cancer — and are proudly standing as testaments to what a little hope and a lot of support and courage can do.

And they aren’t alone. There are other survivors, too. They were the ones walking during the Survivors’ Lap — telling the world they have won their battles and offering a hand to those who are still fighting.

We Relay for them, too.

This event is special for many reasons — and represents the hard work of literally thousands of Wayne County residents. There are probably more than a few people who are taking a well-deserved rest today.

But the most important reason that this county Relays is because it cares — and will continue to care until a cancer diagnosis is as inconsequential as the common cold.

And when that day comes, you will really see a party.

Published in Editorials on May 17, 2008 10:26 PM