More than 200 cancer survivors got into the spirit of Relay for Life at the 16th annual Relay survivors’ banquet this week.
The banquet, attended by cancer survivors and their guests, was held on Thursday evening at the Laurinburg Presbyterian Church. More than 500 survivors are expected to participate in Relay for Life, which will begin at 6 p.m. on Sept. 21 at Pate Stadium.
Relay co-chair Stewart Thomas credited the spirit of Scotland County’s cancer survivors for much of the event’s success in recent years. Scotland County’s Relay for Life has ranked number one in its population category nationally in the number of cancer survivors who participate as well as the amount of money raised.
“We have the best volunteers, the best medical care, the best survivors, and the best caregivers in the entire world,” Thomas said. “We’re so happy that you’re here with us and we’re so happy that you have the success stories that you have to share with us.”
The event was supported by many volunteers, from caregivers from Scotland Health Care System to the local Circle of Hope breast cancer survivors’ group. “I’m on a team with the WEWO Walkers, and we’re doing good to meet our goal,” said volunteer Joanne McNair. “I’m excited about this. Some of the faces that you look at, some of them you don’t know, but in a place like this you can’t be too shy to ask them if they’re a survivor.”
Entertainment was provided by gospel music performers Bo Poston and the Girls in Christ, with door prizes donated by local businesses and several Relay for Life teams.
“This is my first year coming out,” said Bertha Barnes, a three-year survivor of cancer. “I had heard some of my friends talking about how nice it was, and I enjoyed everything - the speakers and the gospel music. I think it’s a really good idea for them to do this every year.”
Oncologist Dr. Kelvin Raybon of Scotland Memorial Hospital spoke at the banquet, updating the audience on the search for a cure for cancer.
“People ask me how we’re doing and if we’re beating cancer. “It’s an exciting time in cancer care and oncology because there are advances,” Raybon said. “Cancer care is like a football game, but it’s three yards in a cloud of dust. There are little steps forward each and every day. Cancer’s hard because it’s not one disease. It’s easy to think of it as one disease, but it’s not. There are over 100 diseases and we have to beat all of them.”
Raybon informed the group that radiation and surgical techniques used to treat cancer are constantly becoming more precise, leading to fewer side effects and quicker recovery times for patients. Drugs for cancer treatment, Raybon’s particular specialty, are being approved by the FDA almost monthly, covering a wider range of specific cancers and offering patients improved prognoses.
“In 1975, if you were diagnosed with cancer of any type, your chances of being cured were about fifty-fifty. Currently, it’s about 67 or 68 percent and rising,” said Raybon. “We’re not going to wake up with a one-size-fits-all cure, but we’re making steady progress each and every day.”
For many survivors, attending the banquet is a reminder of the support network of fellow cancer patients, caregivers, and family members that helped them through their most difficult struggles.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer and it had metastasized; I had chemotherapy and I am grateful to God that I am alive.” said Lynn Lambert of Wagram, a survivor of 27 years. “Coming here is my way of offering my support to those who may be facing some of the things that I faced 25 years ago. The support of the community is so terrific. My survival is because of the people who supported me and this is just my way of giving a little bit back.”