By MARK J. MILLER
FOLLANSBEE - Cancer.
SISTER SURVIVORS — Three sisters — all cancer survivors — were busy getting ready organizing the Survivor’s Dinner Saturday at the Follansbee Middle School as part of the Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay for Life. The annual event raises funds and awareness for cancer prevention, education and awareness. The sisters are, from left, Kathy Carey, Linda Abercrombie and Charlene Smith. -- Mark J. Miller
The very word causes dread and affects all members of society, no matter how rich or poor, old or young.
However, hundreds of people Saturday converged at Follansbee Middle School determined to raise funds to help find a cure during the Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay for Life, which began Saturday.
The 12-hour relay - from 6 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. today - on the Follansbee football field has been raising funds to defeat the disease since 1997. Organizers said they were hoping for their best year yet in raising funds for the cancer prevention advocacy organization, according to Dave Secrist, event chairman.
"We usually have about 97 teams," he said Saturday afternoon prior to the event. "I'm expecting about 1,000 people to be here later. Our (fundraising) goal this year is $103,000 - up $20,000 from last year."
Last year's event raised about $80,000, and this year's event was to boast a Mardi-Gras atmosphere, he added.
Secrist said the funds will be used locally for cancer society programs, as well as research, prevention advocacy, gas cards for driving expenses and more.
"We have a lodge where families can stay for free while (a loved one) is getting treated for cancer," Secrist continued.
The society also has a program providing wigs and other appearance accessories for those undergoing treatments to help them look and feel good about themselves, Secrist added. He also said he wasn't worried about rain or inclement weather this year.
"It rains every year on us," he said while laughing. "But we hope the good weather holds out for us."
Tammy Hormick, event co-chair, said while the cancer rate locally appears to be rising there is reason for hope.
"Seven-thousand people in West Virginia were helped by the American Cancer Society this year," she said. "It does seem like there's more and more cancer and different types. But there also are a lot more survivors."
"Three-hundred and sixty lives per day are saved thanks to American Cancer Society efforts," said Secrist. "Any survivor that comes tonight - they will be wearing purple shirts - will be treated to a free dinner."
The irony of three sisters, all cancer survivors, organizing and preparing the dinner in the Follansbee Middle School gym, wasn't lost on Kathy Carey, Linda Abercrombie and Charlene Smith. All three said cancer runs in their family.
"I am a cancer survivor for three years," said Carey of Weirton. "I had breast cancer. It's a sister thing. Our oldest sister Trudy, who lived in Kansas, died of breast cancer nine years ago."
Abercrombie, who lives in Colliers, echoed her sister's story.
"I'm an 18-year survivor of breast cancer," she said, adding her sister Smith, a Wellsburg resident, survived skin cancer. "Cancer runs in our family. Mom and dad had cancer. My dad was only 46 when he died of stomach cancer. We've had three aunts and four cousins our age who have died of cancer."
The sisters said while they've had their share of adversity, the good news is cancer treatments, including early cancer detection and better technology, are helping more and more people to become survivors.
"The treatments are phenomenal," said Carey, adding her treatment was "state-of-the-art."
She also said cancer awareness helped her with an early diagnosis and beat the disease. The sisters said they've been involved with the event for years.
The event also included plenty of volunteers to help teams sign in and get prepared, while others volunteered entertainment services to keep the relay going.
Entertainment slated included the El Durays, an oldies rock and roll group; local vocalist Toni Voltz; Leslie Ciccolella, who presented a karate demonstration; and Cindy Petri of Fusion Fitness, who offered a Zumba session. There also was be a battle of the barrel-style competition between local fire departments, as well as a cake walk, mystery auction and games for children.
At 6 p.m. the survivors' lap began, and lighting of memorial luminaria at dusk also was a highlight.