The East Wake Relay for Life overtook the Wendell Baptist Church fellowship hall Thursday evening with a recurrent goal from past years: opening its arms to cancer survivors and caregivers.
This year’s installment of the Relay’s annual Survivor Dinner featured some twists, however.
There was no one keynote speaker. There wasn’t a closing act. The lineup came in piecemeal form with several individuals – from doctors to caregivers and a local student – picking up the microphone to share with the crowd.
“I think the idea was instead of just focusing on one angle of presentation, we tried to do as much variety as possible on how cancer relates to different patients and how it touches different people’s lives,” said East Wake Relay co-leader Vickie Curtis.
The event is designed to let local cancer survivors know the East Wake Relay community is there to support them. It also serves as the organization’s final push to encourage more people to attend the Relay, scheduled this year for May 8-9 at Five County Stadium in Zebulon.
“Every year, the goal is to come together to rejoice with those that are surviving, remember those that have left us and it’s a time to honor both the survivor and the caregiver,” Curtis said.
Sheila Prosser, captain of the Knight Walkers team from Knightdale United Methodist Church, led off with a presentation on the Cancer Action Network, the American Cancer Society’s advocacy affiliate for getting messages across to state lawmakers and beyond.
Jeanette Hammond then spoke of a family member who was diagnosed with cancer and the process of getting a patient navigator, and how they are walking them through their fight with the disease. Hammond went beyond just speaking; she brought the patient navigator, Jane Worrell of Duke Cancer Center, to the dinner to share more about her line of work.
“Everyone says, ‘How do you do that? That’s so sad,’ ” Worrell said of the reaction her job often triggers. “It’s not sad ... It’s about surviving. You are all in this room and you’re surviving.”
Hammond also arranged for Duke medical oncologist Yuri Fesco to speak on the topic of tumor research.
The crowd got its musical fix compliments of a pair of songs by Bunn High senior Jennie Jimenez, who chose to focus on cancer for her senior project.
Relay co-leaders Bobbi Jane Duke and Connie Gay wrapped things up leading the audience in a game followed by a luminaria ceremony with the Relay objectives of celebrating the lives of those who have battled cancer, remembering loved ones lost to the disease and fighting back against a disease that takes too much.