05/18/07 — They DID survive

View Archive

They DID survive

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 18, 2007 1:59 PM

An overflow crowd of cancer survivors packed First Pentecostal Holiness Church Thursday night to celebrate victory over the disease.

More than 650 people gathered for the 14th annual cancer survivors banquet on the eve of the annual Relay for Life.

The featured speaker was Shelley Flores, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2005, just two weeks after her 38th birthday.

She recalled waiting for the results of a mammogram and telling her husband that she had a bad feeling about it.

"I told him I could actually see myself standing in front of a group one day telling my story."

The mammogram revealed a lump in her breast and she underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

During the ordeal, she said that one day at a special prayer service at her church a calm feeling came over her.

"The Lord let me know that this was a path I had to take. Now I tell other cancer victims about the good and the bad of what lies ahead for them," she said.

She said she believes her job is to help others cope with the disease, the same way she received help.

Although she was diagnosed with cancer before the cancer survivors banquet that year, Mrs. Flores didn't attend.

"I didn't feel like a survivor at that time," she said. "But a co-worker, who was also a cancer survivor, told me that I am a survivor from the day I was diagnosed until the day I leave this earth."

From that day, Mrs. Flores stopped focusing on the past and began focusing on moving ahead.

She also talked about survivorship, which the dictionary defines as remaining alive and in existence. Looking around the room, she said the many faces in attendance was an indication of how people are fighting back.

"How packed the room is tonight and how wonderful that is. It means there are more and more survivors," she said.

She described those who support cancer victims as "superheroes," noting the doctors, nurses, family members, friends, church members, co-workers and anyone else who lends a hand, or simply moral support, during the struggle to defeat the disease.

During the banquet, master of ceremonies Jimmie Ford, also a cancer survivor, encouraged people with the disease to talk about it.

"Tell your story," he said.

Dr. James Atkins, a cancer specialist, echoed that sentiment. He said it wasn't that long ago when the "c" word could not even be said out loud.

"Prior to that, it was the 't' word -- tuberculosis," he said. "Look at us now. Today we are celebrating life, celebrating survivorship."

Dr. Atkins said cancer research has come a long way in recent years and a lot of that has been due to the efforts of hundreds of Relay for Life events across the country.

"But we still have a battle to fight," he said. "We want to find a way to prevent cancer, not just treat it."

A program of inspirational music was sung by Susan Scott, one of the members of the staff of Southeastern Medical Oncology Center and a member of Coker Memorial Church. Her rendition of "One Moment in Time," concluded the banquet. The song has become an anthem for the event. It ends with the lines "Give me one moment in time/When I'm racing with destiny/Then in that one moment of time/I will be/I will be/I will be free."

The Relay for Life begins tonight at 6 p.m. with an opening ceremony and the annual survivors lap. A luminaria service will be held at 9 p.m. The event ends Saturday at 11 a.m.