If Corporate Chair for Raleigh County’s Relay For Life Pat Davis could be anything she wanted right now, it’d be … purple.
Going purple is Relay-ese for being in the black financially, having met an ever-increasing goal for an ever-increasing problem, raising the mercury on the thermometer of giving to fuel the fight against cancer.
“Conceivably we can meet our goal prior to the event. We’ve done it one other time and we’d like to go purple this year,” she explains.
Turning this Friday evening’s activities into a victory celebration of having already met the $104,000 goal would be the best possible scenario, one validating the efforts of 45 different groups, like Winkie’s Walkers, a Maxwell Hill Baptist Church Relay team that formed four years ago to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of beloved congregant Delores “Winkie” Brash.
Kathy Dickerson, team captain for Winkie’s Walkers, says it’s the least they could do, to organize a legacy for a woman who sacrificed so much for others.
“She was a great part of our church. If anyone needed a meal or was sick, she was always there for them.”
Winkie passed away in August 2007, just a few short months after being diagnosed with leukemia.
“There are so many other people at our church who’ve had cancer and those who are surviving,” adds Dickerson, including her own father, who succumbed to cancer the February before Winkie. “It’s a way to help the community, to show that we do care and we’re there for anybody who needs us.”
Dickerson adds that Winkie would likely give her approval. “If she were alive, she’d be the first one out there helping.”
The R2C2s of Raleigh Regional Cancer Center have one of the largest and most charitable standings within the county’s walk, for good reason.
“All it takes is one visit to the cancer center waiting room for you to appreciate what you have,” says Joyce Rollins, who by day busies herself in the clinic’s lab, but has by evening assisted colleague Phyllis Basham with an active schedule of individual fundraisers, like a “King Versus Cancer” Elvis-impersonation show and a giant silent auction to meet goal for their group.
Rollins has also served as team leader in previous years. The extra effort became more personal when her husband, Rick Rollins Sr., was diagnosed with malignant melanoma not once, but twice, each time having “fairly good portions of his back removed.”
Team R2C2, describes Rollins, does everything it does because of the cancer patients, to help an organization (American Cancer Society) she believes is far advanced in research to subdue cancer and in resources to assist patients with essentials, like transport to and from treatment and wigs for improved self-esteem after treatment.
“The physician who opened the clinic is battling cancer right now also, so it’s very close to all of us,” she adds.
“The cheers and looks of pride on cancer survivors’ faces are just amazing. There’s no way you can’t be touched by a look on a patient’s face when they come around the track at the walk. We’re giving them hugs and thumbs up — we’re glad to see them here for another birthday.”
For Candra Moses, the Survivor’s Lap initiating Relay’s night of events is an especially personal time. A seven-year cancer survivor, Moses was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 21.
“When my surgeon told me the diagnosis, he never said the word cancer. I knew something was wrong, but I just didn’t know what. When I asked what we had to do to fix this and he said chemo and radiation, I was just like, whoa.”
The year following her successful treatment, Moses didn’t relay as a survivor.
“I never felt like my cancer was bad enough because I had one of the most treatable forms. It wasn’t until I started working for Hospice of Southern West Virginia two years later that I began walking in Relay.”
With her Hospice family validating that she was indeed a survivor, Moses changed her opinion about her fight.
“I realized what a big deal it was and how blessed and fortunate I was. It was a really awesome feeling.”
This year, assisting Team Hospice with their “We Scare Because We Care” Monsters Inc. theme, fitting in with the overall theme of “Scare Away Cancer,” Moses is busy decorating rice cereal treats in character Mike’s trademark, one-eyed green. It’s an evening of mixed emotions for her, jubilation at being a survivor, but deep reflection at witnessing individuals in the throes of cancer who are her junior.
“I was one of the youngest (walking) when I started walking five years ago. It makes me very sad now to see people younger than me fighting cancer,” she says.
There may be a few tears during the evening, but Relay remains a positive mission, free of pretense and gloom, full of empowering possibility.
“Relay for Life is an awesome event,” concludes Moses. “I encourage everyone to come and see how amazing it is.”
— E-mail: email@example.com
Raleigh County’s Relay for Life
Where: Crossroads Mall, Beckley
When: Friday, July 13
Survivor registration starts at 5 p.m.;
Opening ceremony begins at 7 p.m.