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Relay for Life celebrates cancer survivors

By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer

Each year several community leaders work to make cancer a tragedy of the past. The Relay for Life is held annually in Mountain City. This year Megan McEwen largely organized the event but she was quick to point out that if not for the efforts of many, the Relay for Life wouldn’t be possible.
McEwen reported that approximately 140 people attended the “Survivor Dinner”, which is traditionally held in the days leading up to the Relay for Life. The dinner is open to cancer survivors and their families and is themed a ‘birthday’ celebration of sorts in that is honors another year of life after cancer.
The Relay for Life is one of the largest fundraising campaigns in the world with over 4 million people participating in over 40 different countries proving that cancer doesn’t discriminate. People of all ages and walks of life gather to honor those battling cancer as well as those lost to cancer by walking a track made of “luminaria bags.” Each bag is purchased in honor or in memory of someone affected by cancer. The individual bags range from simple dedications to intricate works of art. When they’re illuminated at sundown, the effect is astounding and inspiring. The first lap around the track is dubbed the “Survivor’s Lap”. Every cancer survivor in attendance is asked to join as the crowd cheers him or her around the track in honor of their noble fights against a formidable foe.
Cancer is undoubtedly a killer. In fact, cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. However, hope can be found within the many organizations dedicated to eradicating it like the American Cancer Society. All Relay for Life proceeds go to support the American Cancer Society’s programs dedicated to cancer research, screening and patient outreach. Science has shown that the research is working. Cancer survival rates grow each year largely thanks to non-profits helping to fund research projects.
Several teams took part in the 2015 Relay but it was perhaps the HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America) Club that made the largest mark with about 55-60 members participating. Tina Reece, Johnson County High School Teacher and HOSA Club organizer, stated, “anytime I present an opportunity to the kids to help the community they’re all about it. So many of them have personal stories about how cancer has affected their family or friends so they’re happy to help.”
For those currently fighting cancer, the American Cancer Society website (cancer.org) is a wealth of information. The site also offers preventative tips including avoiding tobacco, tips on getting healthy and active as well as information about how to protect yourself from overexposure to the sun, which can lead to skin cancer. The American Cancer Society also stresses the importance of receiving routine screenings, which can detect cancer long before symptoms present. The following screening guidelines are offered by the American Cancer Society:
Breast cancer
Yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health
Clinical breast exam (CBE) about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over

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