Strother’s crusade against

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 24, 2000

cancer has personal roots


Features Editor

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

March 23, 2000 9 PM

Here am I Lord, (use) me.

Five years ago, Mayretta Strother lost her husband Joe to cancer.

Today, she is helping to lead the fight against this deadly disease in her hometown of Brundidge.

She had not planned to become so actively involved in the fight, but she did. "I had to."

Last year, Mrs. Strother participated in Relay for Life for the first time. She got involved because her husband’s sister, Susie Hastey, who is a cancer survivor, asked her to bake a cake for the Brundidge Cooks Against Cancer radio auction.

"Most of us who baked for the auction went to Relay," Mrs. Strother said. "I knew Relay for Life was a fight against cancer but I didn’t really understand what Relay is until that night."

As Mrs. Strother watched survivors walk the lead lap, as she walked the luminary-lined oval herself, she began to understand.

"Relay for Life was a very emotional experience for me," she said. "I’m sure it is for anyone who has lost a loved one to cancer and for anyone who has been affected in any way by the disease. The luminaries made a strong impression on me. Seeing the names of all of those who have been lost to cancer breaks your heart. But seeing those who are surviving because of what is being accomplished in the fight against cancer, shows there is hope."

Mrs. Strother knows about loss and she knows about hope.

She has also lost a niece and several friends to cancer. However, she also has relatives and friends who are cancer survivors. She walked in memory and honor of them last year. This year, she’s in the fight for them.

Mrs. Strother didn’t really plan to take up the banner but, perhaps, God had planned it that way.

She didn’t know Brundidge United Methodist Church was having a program on Relay for Life when she went to the Wednesday night supper last week. But the program presented by Neditria Talbot, chairperson of Pike County Relay for Life, and Mary Ida Williams, committee member, touched her.

When Mrs. Talbot expressed hope that someone would volunteer to head a team from the church, Mrs. Strother stepped forward.

"I had to," she said. "I wanted to. This was something I could do for Joe and for all of the others in our church who have been affected by cancer. Looking around our church, I can’t find a pew that hasn’t been affected. I’m able to get out and do something and I am so thankful for that because I don’t know when I might not be able to. While I can, I want to do what I can."

Mrs. Strother knew her church would be supportive "because it always is." but she said she has been overwhelmed by the interest and enthusiasm.

"Everyone has been so willing – even eager – to do what they can," she said. "Right now, we have three fund raising events planned. Half of our Lenten offering has been designated for Relay and that will be an opportunity for our church membership to respond as they feel led."

The church will host a campstew supper from 5 until 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 31. Plates will be $5 each and anyone who has ever eaten Earl Helm’s campstew will know that it’s impossible to get any better at any price.

A roadblock is also planned but no date has been set.

"A roadblock might be a slight inconvenience but it also might be the only opportunity some people have to donate," Strother said. "Even if people just toss in a nickel or two, you never know what difference one nickel might make."

Brundidge United Methodist Church will have have a tent at Relay for the first time.

"Oscar and Sarah Faye Fleshman have volunteered to cook for us and we hope that every member of our church will be there to experience Relay for Life," Mrs. Strother said. "If so, they will come away knowing that this is a good thing we are doing. Many people are surviving cancer today because of the research that has been funded by Relay and many people are being diagnosed early because of the education programs funded by Relay. Relay for Life is making a difference."

Others in the Brundidge community are involved in Relay. Susie Hastey and the Relay cooks will be auctioning off their goodies on Thursday mornings on the WTBF radio show. A merchants’ group is also forming a team.

Mrs. Strother has luminary forms available for the convenience of those in the Brundidge area who would like to have a luminary in memory or honor of a loved one. Luminaries are $5 each.

"The donations we collect doesn’t go for our team but that doesn’t matter," Mrs. Strother said. "All of the money goes to the American Cancer Society, so it doesn’t matter where you give or how much."

Mrs. Strother said she was impressed by the fact that only 2 percent of every dollar donated to Relay goes to administrative costs.

"There have to be administrative costs for any organization but the American Cancer Society spends only a small percentage on those costs," she said. "That did impress me."

Mrs. Strother also said she was impressed by the fact that the Hope Lodge in Birmingham is available at no cost to cancer patients undergoing treatment at the hospital there.

"That has to take a lot of the financial burden of families who are having to go through treatment," she said. "Relay for Life is a wonderful thing. Being involved is something I want to do. It’s not a burden. It’s something I’m doing for Joe and it makes me feel closer to him. It’s a blessing.