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Relay marks 10 years in cancer fight

June 17, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

HAGERSTOWN

When Julie Gantz was diagnosed with large cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, nobody told the single mother of three that she was going to die, so she didn't let herself ponder that scenario.

"But my tumor was this big," Gantz said, holding her handbag up to her chest.

After six months of chemotherapy and radiation, the tumor was gone. That was 10 years ago.

"My survivorship and this relay are the same age. That's why it's special to me," Gantz said of the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, which was held overnight Friday at South Hagerstown High School.

Around 400 people participated in the annual event, which had a fundraising goal this year of $127,000, said Kelly Scott, American Cancer Society community manager.

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"We'll definitely break $100,000," Scott said. Because a sizable amount of donations tend to come in after the relay begins, the total amount of money raised was not available Friday night.

The relay concludes today at 8 a.m., with members of the various teams taking turns walking constantly around the school's track.

Trish Rowland wasn't easy to miss - she and fellow members of the "Curvettes" team were wearing matching bright pink shirts. The group, strangers at first, met at the Curves gym in Williamsport and decided to take part in community events.

"Tonight is our first event," Rowland said.

Although they signed up only a month ago, group members had raised more than $2,300. They plan to sign up as soon as they can for next year's relay and launch fundraising efforts.

Walking with the same team as Gantz was Jeanne Small, who also survived non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after going through radiation and chemotherapy.

Small credited her strong support group of family, friends, doctors and co-workers with helping her triumph over cancer.

"You're thankful for every day you're here," she said.

During the relay's opening ceremonies, speakers included state Sen. Don Munson, who lost a brother-in-law to cancer this week, and Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, whose father died of cancer in 1999, they said.

Mike Weller, a Hagerstown firefighter and part-time radio announcer, also addressed the crowd. He said it took his wife, a physician, five tries before she could bring herself to utter "the 'c' word" to her husband.

He had colon cancer, but has been cancer-free for five years.

"God bless you all for doing this," Weller told the crowd. "Thanks for my life."

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