The Galax-Carroll County Relay For Life returned to Tommy Thompson Field on Friday evening with a celebration of lives and the drive to find a cure for cancer. Twenty-five teams participated in the event, which held opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. This year marks the 15th held as a Galax-Carroll event. Its theme was “closing the book on cancer.”
Cancer survivor and speaker Kiena Williams told opening ceremony participants she had been playing in the snow with her children last winter. Williams, who is a nursing instructor, said she discovered a lump in her breast while showering afterwards.
“I was 40 years old (it was her birthday that day) and a medical professional. It was nothing,” Williams said.
The results of a mammogram from her nurse practitioner initially showed nothing alarming but Williams followed through with additional testing to be certain. An ultrasound test revealed otherwise.
“You know it’s bad when the technician says I have to go get the doctor,” Williams said.
More than six months of treatment with 12 more weeks of chemotherapy were followed by the result she is now a six-month cancer survivor. This good news came at a price.
“Cancer took a lot of things from me. I lost my hair, my appetite,” said Williams. “Cancer is not for the weak. It takes away your emotions and leaves you numb.”
Williams stressed the importance of events like Relay For Life to help cancer battlers and their families rally around each other. She believes Relay gives participants hope and brings a community together, ready to fight. She said she never thought she would be “on the receiving end of this” and said God has blessed her through the journey and reminded participants “every need He sends people you never knew you needed.”
She told the crowd everyone in a community is touched by the results of cancer and told them to “keep up the fight and thank you so much.”
Young cancer battlers Wyatt Dalton, Ian Conner and Ryan Powers served as Grand Marshals for a children’s lap aboard a Hillsville Volunteer Fire Department truck, followed by a Galax Fire Department truck. The event included a team lap, a survivors lap and a caregivers lap. CCHS Choir members sang the National Anthem and members of the CCHS Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps conducted a flag ceremony to open the relay.
Cadets took turns standing at a small table set to honor participants. The table’s size symbolized patient frailty; its white tablecloth symbolized medical professionals, an empty chair stood for those lost to cancer; an inverted glass represented those not present to celebrate, salt on a plate stood for countless tears shed, a slice of lemon symbolizes the bitter battle against cancer, a rose celebrated the enduring life of family and friends, a purple ribbon stood for the ribbons worn by participants, and a candle symbolized the light of hope.
“Grand Club” members (those who raised $1,000 or more themselves) were Cindy Dixon, Margie Carico, Liz Ingersoll, Donna Thomas, Kevin Campbell and Jane Smith. Teams included 100 Woman Team, Blue Ridge Chapel Cancer Fighters, CCHS Volleyball, CCMS, Carroll County Retired Teachers, Carroll County Sheriff’s Department, Classic Creations Miracle Printers, Coulson Church of the Brethern, Galad Elementary-Tide for Life, Galax High School For A Cure, Gladeville Eagles, Grayson National Bank, Hillsville Elementary School-Patriots for Life, Hillsville Presbyterian Church, Hopeweavers, Laurel Wildcats, (Wal Mart) Lights of Hope, Miracle Makers, Oakland Elementary School, Petunias Purple Passion for a Cure, Pilate’s for Pink, Queens & Kings For A Cause, Southwestern Virginia Training Center, St. Paul Tigers and The Results Team. The fundraising goal this year has been set at $73,000.
Queens & Kings For A Cause captured first place in the float competition with The Carroll County Retired Teachers placing second and the St. Paul Tigers third.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.