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Cancer survivors take celebratory lap at Municipal Stadium before Suns game

April 26, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com
  • Walking a lap at Municipal Stadium Friday night prior to the Suns baseball game with Hickory are cancer survivors, from left, Sue Easterday of Hagerstown, Crystal Ancarrow of Smithsburg, Melissa Wheatcraft of Hagerstown, Alethea Wyand of Boonsboro, and Marcia Bortz of Hagerstown.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

The red, white and blue color scheme newly representing the Hagerstown Suns gave way to a deep shade of purple Friday at Municipal Stadium, where cancer survivors sporting the color took a celebratory lap around the bases before the game.

The minor league baseball team hosted the American Cancer Society Relay for Life to honor area cancer survivors at their home game against the Hickory Crawdads.

Melissa Wheatcraft, 58, of Hagerstown, was diagnosed with lung cancer, unrelated to tobacco, in June 2011. 

About a year ago, doctors told Wheatcraft her cancer was terminal.

“He said the average is a year,” Wheatcraft said of how long she was expected to live. “But I’m not average.”

While Wheatcraft cannot work because her cancer comes with physical constraints, she volunteers at the John R. Marsh Cancer Center, where she received treatment.

“In so many ways, it’s a gift because I have been given the opportunity to do what I need to do to get my life in order ...” she said. “I never hang up the phone or part with my friends without telling them I love them.”

Wheatcraft said her bucket list includes attending a nephew’s wedding in October and welcoming a niece into the world in a few weeks’ time.

“You could either sit in the corner and cry or you could get up and do what you have to do,” she said before taking the field with four fellow survivors.

Sue Easterday, 60, of Hagerstown, was diagnosed with breast cancer twice, first in 1997 and again in 2009.

Walking the field Friday, Easterday, who attended the game with her Relay team “Butterflies of Hope,” now is cancer-free. She attributes a positive attitude to half of the battle.

The organization also held on-site fundraisers and raffles to raise money for Relay for Life of Washington County’s upcoming relay on June 14. Luminarias were on sale for a special ceremony honoring cancer survivors at the end of the game.

Keith Grossnickle, chairman of the South Atlantic division Relay for Life task force, was dressed in an inflatable purple get-up, complete with violet-colored hair standing on end.

Grossnickle led the survivors lap alongside the Suns’ mascot, Woolie.

Grossnickle and his sister have been involved with Relay for Life since 2002 — the year they lost both of their parents to cancer.

Grossnickle’s sister, Crystal Ancarrow of Smithsburg, was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2005.

“I do this so that my grandkids are in a generation where we can wipe out cancer,” said Ancarrow, 51.

The American Cancer Society is seeking 500 enrollees in Washington County to participate in a national cancer prevention study, CPS-3, in July.

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