Attend any year’s Relay For Life and instead of dwelling on the sorrow of what has been lost, there is instead a feeling of celebration and cherishing what one still has at that moment.
It’s a sentiment one can find no matter how many times the disease has taken hold, especially for those like Pauls Valley resident Dean Lester, who found more inspiration than anything else Friday night at the event in Wacker Park.
Currently seeking treatment for his 11th form of cancer, this time in his large intestine, he was eager to focus the most on how fortunate he felt to be able to attend another Relay to reminisce about the old days instead of the 55 treatments he’s undergone.
Lester was also glad to see the numbers balance out among his fellow survivors, seeing a few more men attending this year than in years previous. He felt the Lord had blessed him despite all the struggles to beat the disease, especially since he didn’t receive his first treatments until a little over a year ago.
“I’m glad to have the opportunity to do this, so many can’t, have passed on,” said Lester, who is a 45-year veteran of both the Army and National Guard. “I thank God everyday… This cancer ain’t nothing to mess with.”
The celebration of said fortune stretched from old to young, including those like Autumn Knowles who can thank the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital for helping give her younger brother Rodney Jr. a fighting chance back when he was diagnosed 10 years ago with brain cancer.
She made the most of her time over the weekend, singing the national anthem to start the event and work on the Recovery Crew Booth along with other teens from the Wynnewood area.
An even bigger cheerleader was of course Rodney’s mom Kelie, who is thrilled to see him healthy and thankful for the support that even included a Make-A-Wish gift of a tree house.
The fight isn’t over for the family though and will include praying for recovery for her father who was just diagnosed with stage three colon cancer.
“He’s my inspiration, he’s amazing,” said Knowles. “It’s not only his battle… It’s very strong in our family, a lot of people affected by cancer in our family.”
However, for many others like Kay Henry, who lives just outside of Pauls Valley, it was about raising as much funds as possible to try and find a way to prevent anyone else from having to go what she went through. Defeating breast and then a gland cancer, she’s now been free of it totally since 2010 and tries to encourage people to keep supporting the cause.
“We’re all here to raise money for cancer research and hopefully someday win,” said Henry. “I think it’s wonderful, I really do…one of the best causes there is.”
The desire to make a difference for the future battle can even be taken to the career level like Phoebe Brummett, who spent 10 years as a volunteer before being asked to become a staff partner for them a little over a year ago. Originally walking for her mom who battled cancer as well as a former fiancé who lost his battle, she continues to be inspired by the level of support available to those fighting the disease from gas cards to help them get to treatment to wigs and prosthesis used during the treatment phase.
In the end, the Pauls Valley’s participation in the national event raised about $50,000 with $42,000 collected before night of by the participating teams and close to $6,000 from fundraising that night, said Brummett. There are 78 Relays set in Oklahoma alone this year and what makes the impact so unique is how the money collected goes largely back to the area in which it was raised.
“The thing I’m proud of is so much of the money stays locally,” said Brummett. “Research is our number one thing, but also helps people at local level with programs and services.”
A full gallery of pictures on the event can be seen here: Relay For Life 2013