Saturday stood as a day of pride for those who had looked cancer in the eye and won as they lined up to take their survivors’ lap around the Halifax County Fairgrounds during the Halifax County Cancer Association Walk for Hope.
It also gave family and friends of those who had family members who weren’t as fortunate with their cancer battles an opportunity to remember and honor them as they raised funds for the cancer association.
New this year was a chance for HCCA directors and employees to kiss a pig if $75,000 was raised, exceeding last year’s proceeds of $70,026.88, and they raised just enough.
By the end of the day a total of $75,150.26 had been collected, and the pig had been kissed.
“We had a good time (trying to kiss the pig). I believe it helped raise the funds. The people really enjoyed the idea of us doing that,” said Director Sharon Blosser.
To help kick off the day, Delegate James Edmunds presented a resolution from the general assembly to Blosser commending the association for its deep commitment throughout the past 60 years.
“I just want to thank the community for their continued support for the past 60 years, and we look forward to being able to continue to help patients, but we wish it wasn’t needed. We’re very blessed in this part of the state. Not many have an organization like ours. I only know of four in the state of the Virginia,” said Blosser.
After the national anthem was sung, and the JROTC presented the colors, Blosser lined up the survivors, and one of the many leading the survivors was Angela Terry.
Terry has been in remission for seven years after battling triple-negative breast cancer.
She was first diagnosed at the age of 29, but it didn’t come as much of a shock to her as her mother, Louise Sweeney, had died of the disease when Terry was 23 and eventually so did her sister, Juanita Sweeney.
“I knew in my heart that I was most likely going to get it, but I knew God would help me get through it,” said Terry.
Even though it was scary, and still scary today when she returns for check-ups, she keeps her mother in the back of her mind for comfort, and she focuses on the support around her such as the support from the HCCA.
“They do a wonderful job, and as long as they keep getting the support they need, there is so much they can do for everyone,” Terry added.
Another survivor, Celus Glass who was being supported not only by his friends and family but also by team ABB, shared his story of taking on leukemia during the event.
He had been working 58 hours a week and was so tired he didn’t feel like doing anything. He figured it was just because of work, but his wife urged him to go to the doctor.
On Dec. 7, 2015, he spent four days at Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital running tests, and that’s when he got his diagnosis.
“You think a lot of things when that happens, but immediately your mind goes to death and what’s going to happen to your family,” said Glass.
But, after spending three days accepting his diagnosis, he decided he wasn’t going to let it win.
“God came to me and said, ‘I’ve got this.’ And I never looked back,” said Glass.
He began fighting every day as he began chemotherapy at Duke Health, and on Saturday, he had been remission for about a year.
His last day of chemo was Aug. 12, and he says he couldn’t have done it without the support of his family and friends and the HCCA, which provided gas vouchers.
“It’s a blessing for us to have the HCCA,” he added.
Supporting Glass along with other ABB employees, Shelby Powell, Sandra Ingram, Charles Osborne, Barbara Oliver, Jeff Rice and Carl Thompson, with team ABB were Janet Wallace, Stephanie Wilbourn and Brenda Elliott, who said ABB had raised around $1,500. The company matches every dollar raised.
Also joining the survivors was Connie Slagle, who also was walking in honor of Runt and Diane Powell, Gary Slagle and Marlene Gibson.
She’s a breast cancer survivor who’s been in remission for two and a half years.
When she first began attending the Walk for Hope six years ago with her team from Sydnor Jennings Elementary School, she never thought she’d be returning as a survivor.
“Getting the diagnosis was the worst part of the whole thing for me. It was a roller coaster ride,” said Slagle.
As she dealt with the shock of it all, she was offered help by the HCCA in the form of gas vouchers, food vouchers, bras and more, and even though she didn’t accept them, she appreciated it.
“I felt like others could use it more than me,” she added.
Nonetheless, she’s grateful for the HCCA and events like the Walk for Hope that brings awareness to the organization.
“It’s nice to know there is help when you think there isn’t any. I appreciate them doing this; it’s a big relief to those who have cancer. I appreciate all of their efforts,” Slagle concluded.
Others like Janie Burnes, who lost her battle with breast cancer on Jan. 8, 2017, and Rose Dismuke, who had survived breast cancer but lost her battle with bone cancer on May 24, 2017, were there in spirit thanks to their family and friends who walked in their memory.
Burnes’ family walked for her for the fourth year in the row, but this was the first year walking without her.
As they walked, they couldn’t help but remember her personality.
“There was never a dull moment around her. She always kept us laughing,” said her cousin, Alisa Hilliard.
“She was well-loved,” her bother, Carlos Ragland, added. “She had a big heart.”
Helping to remember Dismuke were her nieces Hollie Sims and Melissa Sims along with other family members.
“It feels very good to be able to come out and support our aunt and all the cancer survivors. We miss her so much, but we appreciate this opportunity to be able to get the family together and remember her,” said Melissa.
Throughout the day, participants heard music from various choirs such as Jeters Chapel Youth Choir, participated in a dance off and a suitcase race and watched dancers from We’ve Got Rhythm perform.
In addition to Glass, they heard from cancer survivor Joe Francis who had been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of uterine cancer in May 2016.
As the day came to a close, everyone gathered in the center of the Halifax County Fairgrounds as he or she each lifted a balloon and released it into the sky in honor of cancer patients and to remember those who have lost their battles.
From the Gazette-Virginian