The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life is a night for celebrating those individuals who have survived cancer and a time for remembering those who have not.
Each year, hundreds of people show their support during this event.
Claiborne County’s annual event is scheduled Friday at the Harrogate City Park, with the opening ceremony beginning at 7 p.m. During the opening ceremony, cancer survivors will be honored with medals and will walk the first lap of the evening.
One survivor who regularly participates in the Relay For Life is 11-year-old Brooklynn Whitaker. She was diagnosed with leukemia in June 2006 and underwent 26 months of daily chemotherapy.
“Other parents were worried about their child’s cough or ear infection; I drove my child to school every day with a bucket in her lap for when she got sick, and sometimes had to carry her out to the car because she was too weak to walk,” remembers her mother Kristen. “At age five she would hold completely still while the nurses accessed her port for chemo and she would sit in a chair, grit her teeth and squeeze the chair arms while they gave her dual intra-muscular chemo shots in her legs. When the shots were done, she would let out a breath and say, ‘I’m OK, Mommy.’”
After Brooklynn’s diagnosis, “We were scared and very angry,” remembers Kristen. “That’s what cancer does; it steals your joy, your hope and your faith if you let it. God gave us the strength to stand in the midst of adversity. In the beginning that’s all we could do, but as each day passed, we got a little bit stronger. Not one single person has the guarantee of tomorrow; until we come to terms with that in our own minds, we are never truly living free.”
After a year of treatment, the family started looking for ways to give back, things they could do to help other people. That’s when the Relay For Life came along.
The Relay is Brooklynn’s favorite event, according to Kristen. It gives her and younger brother, Hunter, the opportunity to help others affected by cancer.
“They are both very dedicated to the Relay” says Kristen, “which makes me very proud. I want my kids to know that there will be many things that happen in their lives that they do not choose, but that they always have the choice about how to react to those things. I want them to understand that there is power in action and freedom in truth and above all else that there is a loving, merciful God that will help them carry their load, no matter how heavy it may seem.”
Today, Brooklynn is a picture of health as she attends Heritage Christian Academy’s sixth grade and participates in numerous activities and sports. She can be found on the AYSO soccer field playing on a co-ed team with girls and boys, playing on the Claiborne Middle School girls’ soccer team, participating in Upward basketball and cheerleading, playing basketball and cheerleading for her school and much more.
“The Relay is about celebrating what we have, while remembering and honoring what has been lost,” added Kristen. “It is about choosing to have hope and never giving up.”
At this year’s Relay, over 30 teams will line the track with food and activities to benefit the American Cancer Society. There will be something for people of all ages to enjoy.
“I feel honored to be a part of this uplifting event each year,” said Linda Hurst, Claiborne County committee chairperson. “I am proud to be creating awareness about the progress against cancer and to help raise the funds necessary to continue the fight against the disease.”
The community is encouraged to attend and help raise money for cancer research and local programs benefiting patients and their families.