“I’m 80 years-old, and I’m still here.”
Jimmie Fay Meyers grinned broadly Thursday night, wearing her purple Relay for Life T-shirt proudly as she headed outside with the string of a matching purple balloon grasped in her hand.
Another year, another release – letting the balloon go as a joyous reminder that she’s beat cancer back, a prayer for those who are still fighting and a dancing, drifting memorial to those lost.
This year’s main events in Kilgore Relay for Life (now including all of Gregg County) begin at 4 p.m. today, but the drive’s organizers and volunteers spent their Thursday evening celebrating the survivors and caregivers at the core of the American Cancer Society initiative. Gathering for dinner at Forest Home Baptist Church, they took time, too, to remember those who were not there.
“We are determined we’re not going to let Relay for Life die, because we have to continue the fight against cancer,” co-organizer Teresa Anderson said, defiant against a disease that has claimed the lives of five close friends and relatives. “Don’t ever stop fighting for a cure. It will come some day. Never, ever give up hope, and never stop fighting.
“We’ve got to get our voice heard, that we want help for cancer research and to fight cancer.”
With a score of cancer survivors in the crowd, Julie Rogers – a stem cell transplant survivor – sang one of her favorites, “What a Wonderful World.” Rogers once lost her ringing voice in the midst of her cancer battle, a struggle sister Jennifer Quine helped her surmount through a stem cell donation.
“It didn’t really come back until the cancer was in remission,” Rogers said.
Cancer survivor Manny Almanza introduced fellow survivor and his successor as Relay’s newest Hero for Hope, Gary Boyd.
“It truly is tough,” Boyd said, eyes sweeping over the men and women in the crowd who, like him, have faced the C, “but it’s also victorious.”
Faith plays a huge role in recovery, the Gregg County commissioner emphasized.
“If you don’t have something larger than yourself that spurs you and drives you,” he said, how can you win the battle? Faith fuels the fight, Boyd added, with family and friends playing an immeasurable role in the treatment, bolstered by advances in medicine that Relay helps fund: “All of us are here as survivors because of medical science,” praising the local fundraisers who have contributed to millions upon millions raised through cancer walks and other activities.
Kilgore’s 2018 activities begin at 4 p.m. and the year’s ‘Fun Day’ will continue until 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church before a ‘Glow Fest’ in honor of cancer victims and survivors gets underway at 8 p.m.