STEP BY STEP: Relay for Life drew crowds from all over the county to trample cancer one step at a time

Published 4:00 am Saturday, May 2, 2015

Messenger Photo/Courtney Patterson Relay for Life began with the Survivors’ Lap. All cancer survivors walked one lap together to kick off the event.

Messenger Photo/Courtney Patterson
Relay for Life began with the Survivors’ Lap. All cancer survivors walked one lap together to kick off the event.

Twenty-one Relay for Life teams celebrated another successful Pike County Relay for Life Campaign Friday night at the Troy Sportsplex.

Perhaps, Shelia Deveridge, Relay board member, said it best when she spoke at the opening ceremony and as Relay team members lapped the track.

“You are saving a life with every step you take,” Deveridge said.

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The Relay for Life event was a celebration of victories over cancer and each survivor gave hope to those who are battling cancer.

“Hope guides us,” Deveridge said. “Hope shines through the most distant star on a dark night. Hope is a light in the darkest places. Tonight hope shines brightly. With every step we take, we honor those who have survived cancer and give hope to those who are in the fight.”

Jackie Hornsby knows all about hope. He knows that battles can be won against such a formidable opponent.

In April 2014, Hornsby had just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The diagnosis came at a time when he thought his battle against cancer had been won.

“In August 2013, I was diagnosed with colon cancer,” he said. “And, it just came out of nowhere. I had no warning. My stomach just began to hurt and just that quick I had cancer.”

Hornsby had colon surgery followed by chemotherapy and was then given the green light. Then, another devastating diagnosis.

“I thought I was done and then I had thyroid cancer and I was told I had to do it all again,” Hornsby said. “It was like I had been kicked in the stomach. I just kept thinking that I had colon cancer and now I have thyroid cancer. Where would it be next?”

Hornsby said his wife, Jennifer, was with him every step of the way.

“She was always upbeat and she kept me positive and hopeful,” he said. “This year, I can celebrate. Last year, I was so weak from the chemo and knowing I had another battle, it was tough. Real tough.”

Allyson Rodgers and her son, Holman, are both cancer survivors. She was diagnosed with melanoma in 1994. The skin cancer was superficial and was removed with no follow-up treatment required.

“I really didn’t feel like I had cancer and didn’t think much about it,” she said. “Then, when Holman was diagnosed with retinoblastoma in 1994, I knew what having cancer felt like. You don’t really know what it’s like until it hits home. There’s no way to describe the feeling.”

Rodgers, who is co-chair on the Brundidge United Methodist Church Relay team, said she knows her family has been blessed by the dimes and dollars given to Relay for Life.

“Research saves lives. Tonight is proof that it does,” she said.

Stacey Dean, co-chair of the Lockheed-Martin Relay team, stood and watched as groups and individual walked the luminary-lined track.

Survivors — children, teenagers, young adults, adults and senior adults –wore purple shirts emblazoned with “Hope.”

“Cancer knows no age limit,” Dean said. “Relay for Life makes us aware of that. Bringing awareness to cancer and joining the fight is something that we at Lockheed-Martin want to do. We are proud to be a part of this event.”

Morgan Grissette, a Pike County High School student, was the honorary chair of the 2015 Relay for Life campaign.

She spoke about the loneliness that she felt while in isolation during treatment of thyroid cancer.

“I longed for the human touch,” she said. “Having cancer can be a very lonely thing.”

Deedie Carter knows about the loneliness that comes at the bid and call of cancer.

She lost her husband, Kenneth Carter, to cancer in November.

“Kenneth and I had been a part of Relay since it started,” she said. “We worked to help find a cure and never dreamed that it would hit home. Last year, we walked together to celebrate the victories over cancer and to support the fight against cancer. This year, I’m walking for Kenneth. It will be a hard walk.”