Eastern Wake News

Survivor Dinner inspires, ushers in East Wake Relay for Life

Cancer survivor Tammy Zukoski, right, visits with the East Wake Relay for Life’s youngest cancer survivor, 5-month-old Becca Miller, and her mother Jenny during the Relay’s annual Survivor Dinner at Wendell Baptist Church in Wendell, N.C. Thursday, April 28, 2016.
Cancer survivor Tammy Zukoski, right, visits with the East Wake Relay for Life’s youngest cancer survivor, 5-month-old Becca Miller, and her mother Jenny during the Relay’s annual Survivor Dinner at Wendell Baptist Church in Wendell, N.C. Thursday, April 28, 2016. amoody@newsobserver.com

It is not common for the keynote speech at the East Wake Relay for Life Survivor Dinner to be given on behalf of someone who is too young to speak for themself.

Five-month-old Becca Miller didn’t need to speak. She had won over the crowd that gathered at Wendell Baptist Church Thursday evening on her cute factor alone.

But the story Nathan Miller told of his daughter’s ongoing battle with neuroblastoma – a rare form of cancer that is most common in young children – had the full attention of the room filled mainly with adult cancer survivors and caregivers.

“I think having Nathan and (his wife) Jenny come share their story about Becca makes everyone in this room more aware that cancer truly knows no age,” East Wake Relay co-chair Vickie Curtis said. “We most often hear bout people who are older having cancer, but even these children are affected. It kind of brings things back into perspective.”

Nathan Miller, an associate pastor at Hephzibah Baptist Church, also had a bigger picture to share.

His mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, and it was during her battle that the Millers found out they were pregnant with Becca – who was later diagnosed, herself, and has now been through two rounds of chemotherapy. Test results from Tuesday revealed the disease continues to regress in Becca’s chest, but doctors still have concerns about where it spread into her liver.

“Cancer has been real to our lives both, with Becca and my mother,” Miller said. “We’re on this journey, not by ourselves but with others – others in our church, others in our community.”

Ultimately, the minister used his own family’s plight to remind people life is full of hardships, but that they don’t compare to the goodness and promise of God.

“God uses that suffering to mold us and shape us,” he said. “With all our affliction and suffering in this life, it is momentary. There’s so many stories you have and suffering you’ve gone through within this room, but it is just a glimpse compared to eternal life.”

Sheila Proctor gave a “Mission Moment” like she typically does at relay meetings, using her time Thursday to talk about about how relay revenue comes back to the Triangle and what it is used for. She also plugged the Cancer Action Network, which lobbies lawmakers on issues of importance to the American Cancer Society.

Four members of the Grateful Hearts vocal group from Union Hope Baptist Church performed a variety of songs near the conclusion of the event.

Curtis was fearful Thursday’s stormy weather would affect turnout to the dinner, but it held off long enough for people to pack the fellowship hall before the rain hit hard.

She’s now hoping for sunny skies for the May 20-21 relay at Five County Stadium, where space is not limited.

“Relay is for everybody,” Curtis said. “We want survivors, caregivers, family, extended family. We want the community to come out and embrace our survivors. We want the community to come out and help us celebrate as we remember and fight back.”

Between now and the East Wake Relay for Life

▪  All relay teams will sell advance tickets for the Relay at the Park promotion for the Carolina Mudcats’ May 13 home game, with a portion of proceeds going back to the local cause.

▪  Luminaria can obtained prior to or at relay for $10 each. Torches are also available for the Hope Garden at Relay for $100. Both the luminaria and torches come in colors designating whether the honor is for a survivor, caregiver or a lost loved one. Those items can be purchased online at nando.com/3ig or by calling Curtis at 919-210-6888.

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