Imagine you are a young mother, expecting your second child, and you find a tumor in your breast.
Or imagine you are the mother of a grown man who puts off seeking treatment for nagging symptoms, until he is diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer.
Many would give in to despair. Laura Blackwell and Carolyn Fink didn't. They decided to help others and fight the disease that so significantly changed their lives.
Carolyn's son was diagnosed with colon cancer in January 2006. He died at the end of the year. Carolyn, now retired, then was working as a custodian at Mount Pleasant Elementary School. One day she was cleaning in Leah Mabry's trailer.
Leah, captain of the school's Relay For Life team, had information about the event in her classroom. Carolyn saw it and got very interested. Now, she says, nothing could stop her from participating. This year she is captain of the school team.
To raise money, team members solicit donations from friends and family. The school also is having "jeans days": For a donation, teachers can wear jeans to school.
Carolyn Fink says the message she took from her son's death is to see a doctor if something is wrong: Don't wait. Her loss has motivated her to help other people be aware of cancer.
Diagnosed in October 2008, Laura Blackwell attended her first Relay For Life planning meeting just six days after her mastectomy.
She is captain of a team of about 15 friends and family called "Team Blessed." They're also seeking donations from friends and family. Laura says they hope to duplicate last year's campaign, called "Save Your Jugs." They encouraged people to decorate empty milk jugs and save their loose change in them. Last year Team Blessed raised about $700 from jugs filled with change.
She heads the survivor committee this year. Her goal is to find 1,500 cancer survivors in Cabarrus County to participate. They will walk a special lap, the survivors' lap, around the track while everyone cheers for them, and at the end balloons will be launched.
Laura says the Relay celebrates cancer survivors. They are honored with a special lunch, donated this year (and last) by Wayside Restaurant, and with a birthday party. There is also a special survivors' tent where they can get snacks and drinks during the event. As a cancer survivor, Laura Blackwell knows there is good cause to celebrate, and that's a big part of what Relay For Life is all about.
Despite their challenges and heartache, these women are determined to help so others don't have to suffer. They are the reason Relay For Life is a celebration. Go to www.relayforlife.org for details on our local event, and join the celebration.