Often the battle for cancer is described in detatched clinical and scientific terms. Tongue cancer survivor Leonard Sifford told Galax/Carroll County Relay for Life participants the two greatest weapons in this war are faith and compassion.
“Relay for life is exactly what it says,” said the 67-year old, who was diagnosed with the disease at 66. “This (battling cancer) is a relay for all who run this race. Money (raised by Relay for Life) can go a long way, but true friends are always there to encourage you.”
He said caregivers and victims run the race together, with those who fall being picked up and helped to continue by others.
He told participants at the opening ceremonies at Carroll County High School on Saturday evening God is always there to pick them up and encourage them to keep believing. He said a seven-year old undergoing cancer treatments at the same time he was became a source of courage for him.
“I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, there is nothing to be sorry about,” Sifford said. “I was bolted (head and feet) to a table under a mask during radiation treatments.”
He showed participants the head covering and protective mouthpiece he had to wear while immobile on the table. Sifford said he lost all but two teeth during radiation treatment.
He said God saw him through and called on cancer victims to believe in God so he would see them through their trials. He said he could do little else but pray as he lay immobile on the treatment table.
“God bless you all for participating in Relay for Life. It’s a good program,” said Sifford. “It may be hard work, but these volunteers give their heart for it. Thank God for his children who will help one another.”
Relay for Life Bring the People Chairperson Judy Beasley opened the ceremonies by reminding participants it was a celebration to support, remember and fight back against the disease together.
“Every person here is doing their part to fight cancer,” said Beasley, who said the effort is not only about fundraising for research, but to empower people to fight. “Eliminating cancer will not be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. Anything is possible when we all together join this fight.”
Blue Ridge Chapel Baptist Church Pastor David Moore pointed out many families have been touched by the disease. He prayed the campaign would ultimately give knowledge to conquer the disease and asked God’s blessing for victims and caregivers so “they can continue to climb.”
Members of Pack 83 and Boy Scout Troop 83 Hillsville First United Methodist Church presented the colors for the opening ceremony and The National Anthem was sung by members of the Carroll County High School Chorus, directed by Chandra Harmon. Beasley praised the support of local businesses and churches for making the event possible.
Relay for Life corporate sponsors include Wal-Mart, Blue Ridge Concrete, Race In Marathon, Vaughan-Guynn-McGrady Funeral Home, Dr. Marlon A. Goad Dentistry, Milo C. Cockerham, Inc., DJ Dave & Special “K”, Carroll County High School, The Carroll News, The Gazette, Strickland Construction, Inc., Jeff Johnson Chevrolet, Grayson National Bank, Cloudco, Inc., Russell’s Garage, Inc., G & G Construction, Fancy Gap Service Center, Inc., Sunny Side Store, Inc., Isom Collision, Goad Lumber Company, The Jackson Law Group, PLLC, Tolbert & Tolbert, LLP, Darrell G. Jennings, Dana’s Styling Salon, Virginia Produce, Inc., Jackson Insurance Agency, Country Formals & Gifts, Craig Bowman Insurance, Sky View Baptist Church and Adam’s Jewelers, Inc.
Organizers reported 135 persons registered for the relay this year, which has a goal of raising $79,000. Donations are still being accepted for the effort and may be sent to the American Cancer Society, Attention: Galax-Carroll Relay; P.O. Box 246, Abingdon, Va. 24212.
“I want you to have a great time tonight. This is our little party to celebrate what we did this year. It is our night to celebrate the survivors of Cancer. It is our night to make a difference,” said Beasley. “It is our night to show cancer never sleeps and tonight we won’t either. We are taking a stand and we are going to fight back together to beat cancer.”
Teams recognized for walking after the opening ceremonies Saturday are “Hope Weavers,” Queens for a Cause,” Carroll County Retired Teachers, “Cure-saders for a Cure,” Laurel Elementary School Wild Cats, Carroll County Sheriff’s Department, “Results Beat Cancer,” Pipers Gap Rescue Squad, Hillsville Elementary School, Grayson National Bank, Blue Ridge Chapel Baptist Church, “Miracle Makers” and the First United Methodist Church, Hillsville.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.