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Pike County racing for a cure

When the tents go up May 16 for the biggest fundraising event of the year, Relay for Life, the checkered flag will be a vision for the hundreds of people who are "Racing for a Cure for Cancer."

Larry Hicks, honorary chairman of this year's Pike County Relay for Life campaign, said he has no doubts that one day a cure will be found for cancer and the checkered flag will come down signaling victory over the devastating disease.

Hicks was one of seven cancer survivors who gathered at Troy's Bicentennial Park Tuesday in a show of support for Relay for Life.

"The theme of Relay this year is "Racing for a Cure" and we are, indeed, racing for a cure for this disease," Hicks said. "I was first diagnosed with cancer in 1988 and back then when you heard someone had cancer, it was like a death sentence. Over the past decade there have been phenomenal advances in treatments and drugs for the disease.

"But, we are still 'Racing for a Cure' because there are those who won't win the battle with cancer. Research has not progressed that far. But, a cure will be found, I believe that and that's why I support Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society."

Each person that joined Hicks had a personal story of his or her battle with cancer.

"And we all know how blessed we are said Bessie Pinkney.

Pinkney taught school in Brundidge for 30 something years.

After she retired, she tried to get up one morning and found that she couldn't walk. At first her doctor couldn't find anything wrong. He sent her to a specialist who found a growth on her hip.

"It was the day before Thanksgiving and they told me I had to go in the hospital," she said. "I told them I wanted to spend the holidays with my family. They let me stay until after Christmas. Then, I had the surgery."

Pinkney said the cancer had gotten in her blood stream and the doctor told her most people with her kind of cancer didn't live.

"I said, 'What did you say?' Don't tell me that! Only God knows that," Pinkney said, with a smile. "He touched my toe and said, 'Hang in there!' I've been hanging in there now since 1996. That doctors still treating me and I'm still showing him how to be a Christian."

Like Pinkney, Herman Whaley heard that dreaded word "cancer" in 1996.

"I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and the doctors gave me the choice of surgery or treatment," Whaley said. "I chose the hormone treatment and it took care of the cancer. My PSA was way up - 5.8 -

now, it's .01. I just went to the doctor a couple of weeks ago and was again blessed with a good report."

Whaley said when people join together for good; something good is always the result.

"It might not come as soon as we hoped, but it will come," he said. "With us all pulling together, one day a cure will be found."

Kaye Jinright's introduction to cancer was in 1973 when her dad died with lung cancer. In 1997, she fought a person battle with breast cancer. She is among the blessed."

Jinright benefited from the research funded in part through Relay for Life events and she knows how important these fundraisers are.

"I support the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life because it represents our hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten," she said. "And, that those who face cancer will be supported and that one day cancer will be eliminated."

Jinright said Relay for Life is a unique community event that allows individuals from all walks of life to join in the fight against this dreaded disease."

"Relay is a celebration of life for survivors and a memorial for loved ones lost and a rally for the community to fight cancer."

Ask Kaye Stinson why she supports Relay for Life and she'll answer with one work, "Life!"

Stinson lost two brothers, a nephew and her mother to cancer. She is the only member of her immediate family who has survived the disease.

"Since I had cancer in 1999, every day has been a happy day," she said, with a smile. "We are challenged to find a cure for this terrible disease and Relay is a way that we can all join the fight."

The one word that resounded time and time again from the conversations among the survivors was "blessed."

The words survivor and blessed seemed, to them, to be synonymous.

"You can't be a survivor and not be blessed," they said.

Joanne Newman agreed.

"I am a cancer survivor and I am truly blessed," she said. "I want to thank all of the dedicated workers that work so hard to find a cure for cancer."

Everyone who is a part of finding a cure for cancer is invited to participate in Relay for Life May 16 at the Troy State University band/soccer practice field.

"Whether you are a member of a team or not, we want you to join us in celebrating the lives of those who have survived this dreaded disease, support the warriors and remember those who lost their battles," Hicks said. "Together, we can win."

Then the checkered flag will no longer be a vision but a reality and all the world will cheer.