With stories of survival and hope, Unicoi County ushered in American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life season on Sunday, March 6, during a kickoff event at the Unicoi County High School cafeteria.
The season will end with the annual walk on Saturday, Sept. 17, at the UCHS track.
The Anders family was one of the guest speakers to participate in Sunday’s festivities.
During last year’s Relay season, the Anders saw Unicoi County rally around daughter Lillian, who at the time was seven weeks old and battling through Neuroblastoma, a cancer that affects the adrenal gland, neck, chest or spinal cord, at a hospital in Cincinnati.
Hundreds of Unicoi County citizens took to the track sporting shirts supporting Lillian. Kristin Anders, Lillian’s mother, who was staying at the hospital in Ohio, was able to see support from the hotel room with the event via video chat on a mobile phone.
With Kristin, Lillian and their other three children taking the floor Sunday, Lucas Anders shared the story of the family’s journey once Lillian started to show health issues.
Lucas said that while medicine helps, it was the faith and hope that helped the healing process. Lucas also recalled a time when a gentleman stopped by the family’s hospital room to pray for Lillian. The unnamed man felt led to share a prayer with the family, Lucas said, noting that following that experience, Lillian began to rally and show signs of health improvements.
Local historian Lou Thornberry also addressed the crowd with his survivor story of discovering colon cancer back in 2008 and hearing from doctors that there would be a 40 percent chance of living for the next two years.
“I had no warning,” Thornberry told the crowd. “Cancer may not give you a warning until it is too late.”
Thornberry expressed the importance of medicine, faith and keeping hope for the future. One of the key points expressed during his address was the need for people to take proper testing to catch any signs of colon cancer.
After Thornberry’s speech, Unicoi County Relay For Life community manager Amy Hopson took the floor to second the sentiments made about testing for colon cancer.
Hopson talked about the “80 by 18” initiative the group is participating in – getting 80 percent of the population to receive testing for colon cancer by 2018. Hopson added that colon cancer is one type of cancer that can be cured when discovered, adding that 300,000 instances of colon cancer could be eliminated over the next 15 years and help save 200,000 lives.
The Relay event is co-chaired by Renea Jones and her son, Nick, a survivor who has been cancer-free since 2008.
Prior to The Erwin Record’s press deadline, nine teams involved with the Relay For Life of Unicoi County have raised over $7,600 for the American Cancer Society.
Visit RelayForLife.org/UnicoiTN for more information about the event or to sign up for a team.