By NEESEY PAYNE
Why do you Relay? The answers are boundless – friends, family, neighbors, to be part of something great. Relayers walk laps, donate spare change and put on grand events, but those things only scratch the surface. Being a part of Relay for Life is more than a cause. It’s an experience that can change one’s life forever. Thirty-four years ago Debbie Maxwell was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, 23 years later, it was determined she had colon cancer. “My grandmother died from colon cancer and I had an aunt who died from colon caner. I truly did not know that was what caused their deaths until after I found out I had it. So my first family reunion I attended I preached, ‘Go have a colonoscopy it is very hereditary,’” she said. Maxwell said she is blessed because she was able to have surgery to remove the cancer and never had to have chemo or radiation treatment. This year she walked her first survivor lap in memory of her father who died of cancer at the age of 36. “I went home and I called my mom. It was so emotional,” she said. “It is fun to walk, fun to raise money and fun to share the cause.” Dennis Greene has been Relaying for 16 years. He Relays for survivors and family members he has lost to cancer. “Most recently my 17-year-old niece died just short of her 18th birthday due to leukemia,” he said. Greene loves the camaraderie at every Relay event he attends. Some of his most cherished moments are when he is able to watch Relayers during the luminaria ceremony. As survivors, caregivers and supporters of the cause walk along an illuminated pavement, Greene said you can see people “reflecting on times gone by and people who have passed” – a powerful moment one will never forget. “(Cancer) is not going to go away without our help,” said Nancy Robinson. She Relays for the aunt she lost to breast cancer, her friend who died of colon cancer and best friend who is still in the fight of her life. She is on the front line combating cancer with a conviction – helping those battling the disease have a fighting chance. “I look at (my co-workers) and say, ‘I know you get tired of listening to me, but you know if you had cancer you would want me standing here,’” she said. What does it mean to Relay? The true reason lies in the lives of the soldiers who battle with cancer day in and day out; survivors who are the definition of what it means to have hope, faith and determination, and caregivers who instill in those they love that cancer does not define them, but it’s the fight within them that does. Relayers are never strangers, because their journeys are filled with the same struggles, fears and milestones. Their determination is stronger than the disease.