Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the “Paint the Town Purple Day” would be on Friday. It is actually on Thursday.
GARNER Martha Liles knows the exact date she first learned she had cancer.
“December 2nd, 1997,” she said, nodding her head.
It was breast cancer and was diagnosed after a routine mammogram. Liles was 45 at the time, with a 6-year-old daughter.
“It was awful. You hear it and you know it happens to people and you don’t ever think it is going to be you,” Liles said. “I didn’t have risk factors. It hadn’t happened in my family so it wasn’t something that I had worried about. It was a total surprise.”
She had surgery to remove the cancer, which she said was ‘pretty intense.’ Then chemotherapy followed, which wasn’t nearly as bad, but still took its toll. But after chemotherapy she was cancer free.
But then there was March 2005, during a routine colonoscopy, cancer was discovered in Liles’ lower intestine. It wasn’t related to the first cancer. Fortunately for her, the cancer was in the very early stages, so all it took was surgery to remove it.
Because of that, Liles, 62, is considered a 17-year and a 10-year cancer survivor.
“So while I’ve had an unusual history of having to have dealt with it twice, I’ve also been really blessed with how well I’ve done with it,” Liles said.
She said the one thing about cancer is you always wonder if an ache or pain means cancer has returned.
Each year, hundreds of people on relay teams walk around a path at Lake Benson park, play games, have sales for a day to raise money for the American Cancer Society to research cures for cancer. A representative from each team will walk.
Because of her fight with cancer, Liles, a Garner resident who owns Rand-Bryan House event space, will be one of those people walking. She has participated, since Jill Cottengim, a cancer survivor herself, organized the first Relay in Garner in 1998. This year, Liles is one of the top three money raisers in Garner for the initiative. As of last week she had raised more than $1,300.
This year’s opening ceremony starts Saturday at 4 p.m. It will last until 10 a.m. the next morning. Rain postponed last year’s event and it was moved to Garner High School in June.
Thursday will be “Paint the Town Purple Day.” Residents in the town are encouraged to wear purple to raise awareness for the event.
“There are very few families that haven’t been impacted by cancer in one way or the other,” Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said. “So we want to do as much as we can to encourage research to find a cure for cancer.”
Garner is the top money raiser in Wake County. The town has raised $10.4 million since 1998. So far this year, 52 teams have raised $82,491.
“As a survivor just seeing all those people working, planning and giving money to support you is a good feeling,” Liles said. “We know all of us do better with things when we have a positive view and feel support. So it’s a real happy emotional kind of thing when you see all those people there doing that for that cause.”
Survivors of cancer get a chance to walk a lap in what the event calls the “Survivors Lap.” Liles will be taking that lap, remaining hopeful that research continues to make strides in finding a cure.
Relay for Life
When: 4 p.m. April 24
Where: Lake Benson Park, 921 Buffaloe Road, Garner
Register, donate and get more information: http://bit.ly/1Jk9xH1
Busy weekend in Garner
Watch out for traffic when leaving the Relay for Life at Lake Benson Park Saturday. There are two other events happening Saturday
Four miles down the road, at Bryan Farms on 1832 New Bethel Church Road, the Triangle Music Beach Festival is having its 17th annual event. The event is held between 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Attendees are expected to get there as early as 7 a.m.
Less than eight miles south is the Cleveland Strawberry Festival behind the Food Lion on 75 Glen Road, which starts at 9 a.m. and ends around 2 p.m. Expect traffic to be heavy.