Lebanon County Relay for Life among nation's largest

Written by Marylouise Sholly, Lebanon Daily News | May 13, 2015 3:30 PM
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Photo by Lebanon Daily News

Wendi Donmoyer of Lebanon, a member of team Stacey's Inspiration, holds a sign and cheers on cancer survivors during the survivor's lap in the 20th annual Relay for Life of Lebanon County at Cedar Crest High School's Earl Boltz Stadium last May.

(Lebanon) -- Radiation therapist Susan McCoy has worked in the field of cancer therapy for 30 years, but when her sister was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007, the helplessness she felt overwhelmed her.

"I wasn't able to do anything to help her," McCoy said. "I lost my sister six years ago; she was only 43 when she was diagnosed. At that time, I wanted to step away from anything that had to do with cancer for a long time."

Instead, through the ensuing years, McCoy eventually became a "staunch believer," she said, that there is hope.

This year, McCoy is one of three honorary chairpeople for the 21st annual Relay For Life of Lebanon County. She shares the honor with two other cancer survivors, Darryl Cox and Jerry Stover.

This year, 81 teams with about 1,000 people will convene on the campus of Cedar Crest High School on May 15 and 16 to take part in the Relay For Life. Last year, the teams raised $390,000 for the American Cancer Society, and this year's goal is $380,000, said Lauren McIntyre, event co-chairwoman with her husband, Brian.

Lebanon County always makes an impressive showing, Lauren McIntyre said, both in numbers of participants and in the amount of money raised for the ACS.

"That's a reflection of the dedication of the community and the hard work of the planning committees," McIntyre said. "It's become people's passion to finish the fight and find a cure."

"We'll be there, rain or shine, and we have people walking for 24 hours," McIntyre said.

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A Relay for Life participant looks at the luminaries during a lap in the 20th annual Relay for Life of Lebanon County at Cedar Crest High School's Earl Boltz Stadium last May.

Many of the team members bring tents to camp out overnight, but some folks keep walking for 24 hours to show their empathy for the people undergoing treatments, she said.

Proceeds can go to research or to various programs of the ACS, like "Reach for Recovery" for breast cancer survivors or "Road to Recovery," used for people to drive cancer patients to their treatments.

"There are a ton of people living with cancer, and you'd never know it," McCoy said. "They've had it; they're cured, and they're living their lives. You see them on the street; in the store, and you never know what they've gone through."

McCoy speaks from personal experience. In 1994, she was diagnosed with melanoma, a potentially fatal skin cancer.

She remembers now, it was "kind of a surprise."

"I had had it removed (a skin lesion) several years ago, and it was nothing then , but it grew back, and when it turned out to be melanoma, it surprised both me and my surgeon," McCoy said. "It was a little frightening."

Today, McCoy said she's been very fortunate in that the melanoma has not returned.

For 21 years, McCoy has been a part of Relay for Life. She's been a team member, a committee member and now serves as a volunteer with the ACS at the national level. In that capacity, McCoy sits on a review committee for grant applications, helping to decide where funding can best be targeted.

"We raise money for research (in Relay For Life), and I'm able to see how that research is taking place and how that money is being spent," McCoy said. "I'm kind of lucky because I've been able to see what we've been able to do in cancer research and advancement. The changes are huge; we still have a long way to go, but different types of cancers are being cured that wouldn't have been cured years ago."

Co-chairman Darryl Cox is an employee of Lamar Advertising, a softball umpire and a grandpa. He's also a 15-year cancer survivor.

"In 1997, I was diagnosed with melanoma," Cox said. "I had a spot on my upper chest ... and it kept changing. My wife said, 'you need to have that checked,' and when the doctor (Dr. Ramses Kurban) saw it, he told me he needed to do a biopsy immediately."

The spot turned out to be a Stage II melanoma, Cox said.

"That's a fairly dangerous melanoma, and it had to be taken out," Cox said.

Since the surgery, Cox said he hasn't had any recurrence of the melanoma.

"That's the good news," Cox added.

In January of 2014, Cox, now 62, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Annual physicals showed his PSA number (a blood test whose results can suggest prostate cancer) getting higher and higher.

It was back to the surgeon for another biopsy. Of 12 samples taken, eight were cancerous, Cox said.

"Then you sit down and find out your options," Cox said.

Cox opted for radiation treatments instead of invasive surgery.

"Last year, at the Cancer Center, Dr. Unal laid out a plan for me," Cox said. "This is what we're going to do -- MRIs, body scans, radiation five days a week for 10 weeks."

"You do get tired," Cox said, referring to the treatments. "But they told me 'on the other side of the coin, you're going to get better; your body will heal,' and it did."

Cox's PSA numbers are now where they should be, he said.

"But it's something I'll always have to get checked," Cox said. "It's a simple blood test. I feel good, because when I was diagnosed, I knew where to go."

Cox started walking with Relay For Life when a friend was diagnosed with cancer in the abdomen. After battling the disease for three years, the friend passed away.

"But we continued with our team after he passed away, and we became good friends with other teams through the years," Cox said. "We usually raise about $20,000 a year for the American Cancer Society."

Lebanon County's Relay For Life event is one of the biggest relays in the entire country, Cox said.

"All of our team members have had cancer at one time or another -- some have had very serious battles; more serious than mine," Cox said. "Relay for Life has played an important part in our lives; we fight the fight to eliminate cancer.

"We may never totally eradicate it, but treatments are so much better, and early intervention is so important for men and women."

Co-chairman Jerry Stover is a retired science teacher from Cedar Crest. After losing his wife, Grace, to cancer in 2002, Jerry and his family were again visited by cancer in 2013 when Jerry was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

"I've participated since 2003 because the American Cancer Society has done a lot for research and development of treatments for different kinds of cancers," Stover said. "Being in the Relay also shows you that people care about this. It gives people hope."

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Photo by Lebanon Daily News

Members of the Palmyra Paws for a Cause Relay for Life team get beads from Heather Richardson during the 20th annual Relay for Life of Lebanon County at Cedar Crest High School's Earl Boltz Stadium last May. A black bead represented a mile walked, while an orange bead represented a lap walked.

This article comes to us through a partnership between Lebanon Daily News and WITF. 

Published in Lebanon, News

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