The fastest way to ruffle Anne Scott's feathers is to bring up the word cancer. Mention it to this polite Southern lady and she'll launch into a passionate and spirited tirade.
"It's a disease that doesn't discriminate against anything or anyone, and I would love for it to be gone," she said. "I've had family members and very, very close friends who have had this disease, and I want to end it and get rid of it."
Scott, 52, of Harrisburg's Hartridge subdivision, is doing her part to make cancer one for the history books. For the last nine years, she's gathered a team, raised funds and pitched a tent during Cabarrus County's annual Relay for Life.
This year will be no different. She plans to set up smack dab in the middle of Jay M. Robinson High School's field this Saturday along with the expected 1,000 other participants who will walk the track in celebration and remembrance of those who are survivors, those who are fighters and those who have been taken by the disease.
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The American Cancer Society created Relay for Life in 1985 as a way to honor and encourage those affected by cancer. Participants pledge to walk for up to 24 hours during the event, often in shifts from fellow teammates. Each year more than 3.5 million people across the United States take the walk in ACS's biggest fundraiser to fight cancer.
Cabarrus County has held a relay each year since 1999. In that time, more than 1.6 million dollars have been raised from the community. Teams and individuals who participate pay the $10 registration fee per person, and often go on to raise hundreds, even thousands of dollars earmarked by ACS for cancer research and community education.
"It's emotional and it's very inspiring," said Chairman Kim Beecham of the Relay, "because there's survivors that have been survivors for 20 years. And there's ones who are currently going through treatment. It's very encouraging."
A rare form of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma invaded Beecham's body at age 25. Now cancer-free at 30, she'll wear her purple survivor shirt and join 300 to 350 other survivors who walk the first and last laps of the relay together.
"When you see them take that first lap and all those purple T-shirts come around, it's just a blessing," said Scott. "It's so encouraging to see those survivors because that way we know we are making strides at beating cancer."
In keeping with ACS's theme this year of Celebrating More Birthdays, the local relay will set up like one giant birthday party, said Beecham, with individual teams hosting smaller birthday parties, many selling crafts and baked goods as well.
Scott's team plans to sell candles, jewelry and t-shirts for the cause.
Other activities include a dessert competition at midnight, a wing-eating contest, shag and Zumba sessions, and plenty of games. "It's set up, maybe like a fair or bazaar," said Beecham. "We encourage families to bring their kids out and see what it's all about."
Scott looks forward to the day when no one has to sit in a doctor's office and hear, "You have cancer."
The time will come, she believes. "We can beat this. We've come so far."