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Cancer survivors Relay their message

Hundreds circle track at South High to raise money for cancer research

Hundreds circle track at South High to raise money for cancer research

June 18, 2006|by MARIE GILBERT

Every three minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer.

In 1999, Linda Gibbons was one of those women.

With no family history of cancer, Gibbons was convinced the lump she had detected was a cyst.

But when doctors told her she had breast cancer, the Hagerstown resident said she was shocked.

"I couldn't believe it," she said. "It was the last thing I expected."

But Gibbons was determined to beat the disease.

"I was only 40. I had two daughters, ages 18 and 11. And I told myself I was not going to leave my children," she said.

Seven years later, Gibbons is free of cancer.

"And I'm a grandmother," she said. "I have a lot to be thankful for."

To celebrate being a breast cancer survivor, Gibbons was among the hundreds of people who participated in Relay for Life, an overnight event aimed at raising money for the American Cancer Society.

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Held at South Hagerstown High School Stadium, opening ceremonies took place Friday at 7 p.m.

Relay teams then took to the track, where they walked, jogged or ran until Saturday at 8 a.m.

According to Kelly Scott, community manager of the Washington County Chapter of the American Cancer Society, one person from each team was on the track at all times.

"We had 350 team members with 75 cancer survivors," she said. "It was a very enthusiastic group of people."

Scott said Relay for Life brings together people from all walks of life with the common goal of eliminating cancer.

Money raised from the event is used locally for patient services and advocacy, Scott said. Nationally, funds are used for grants, scholarships and cancer research.

Scott said relays have been held in Washington County for the past 10 years, and always have had great community support.

"We have teams representing businesses, churches and schools, plus individuals who form teams with families and friends," she said. "We are also fortunate to have Citicorp sponsor a separate relay during the year."

Last year, $116,000 was raised locally to fight cancer, Scott said.

"I don't think we'll break that figure this year," she said. "It's been a hard year, with high gas prices and donations made to (Hurricane) Katrina victims. But we're appreciative of every dollar we receive."

Scott said those unable to participate in this year's relay still can make a donation by contacting the local ACS office.

Gibbons, who served on the event's survivorship committee, said she was looking forward to going home, taking a shower and getting some sleep.

"I'm pretty tired," she said. "But I wouldn't have missed this for anything. Cancer doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care who it hits - young or old, male or female, rich or poor. I want to celebrate surviving breast cancer. But I also want to show my support to other cancer survivors and patients. This is a special event."

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