Relay features warriors, survivors, and remembers those fallen in battle

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 22, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Is there a good time to be diagnosed with cancer?

In this case, &uot;good&uot; might be the wrong word to use. But if a person had a choice, he or she might choose to find out they had the disease just in time to take part in an event that could help them realize that cancer isn’t always a death sentence. A time to meet those who have themselves beaten the disease, or are showing the courage to defeat it. People who are living proof that there is hope.


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That’s the situation in which Larry Mabry found himself on Friday evening at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy. Diagnosed just last Monday with pancreatic cancer, Mabry stood with hundreds of others with the disease at the annual Relay for Life, and met people who had survived the disease for months, years, even decades.

When he was first diagnosed, Mabry said, &uot;I felt kind of empty and scared. I thought, ‘Why me, Lord?’ But I put my faith in my church and Jesus Christ, and my family has been supportive during this time.&uot; Mabry could find a special kind of inspiration right at home; his wife Nancy defeated breast cancer.

&uot;I’ve been looking forward to this event,&uot; said Mabry after he, Nancy, and the rest of the survivors took the first lap around the track to the thunderous cheers of those in attendance. &uot;It boosted my morale. Being cheered on gives you a feeling that you’re not alone. Everyone’s behind me, and I’m going to survive.&uot;

That’s a journey that Helen DuBois has had to undertake three times; in the past quarter-century, she’s beaten colon, uterine, and breast cancer. &uot;I’ve been very fortunate,&uot; she said. &uot;I guess it’s the luck of the Irish.&uot;

After finding out she had breast cancer two years ago, &uot;it was a really bad time. I just couldn’t believe it had come back again. But the main thing is to not give up hope and have faith that you’re going to get better. In the beginning, years ago, no one talked about cancer, and you felt like you were the only one who had it. Now you see that it can affect anyone, from little kids to people my age and older. It’s uplifting to see all these people who have beaten it.&uot;

But the Relay wasn’t just for those who have triumphed over the disease. It was also a place or friends and family members of those who didn’t win the battle to comfort each other and let them know that they’re not alone in the painful memories.

&uot;I’m here to carry on his legacy,&uot; Jean Zahn said of her husband Terry, the WVEC newscaster who died of cancer in early 2000. &uot;After he passed, everyone’s feelings about him were projected onto me. I’ve done over 100 Relays, and it shows me how much he meant. He’s the national voice of the Relay for Life, and I’m his echo.

&uot;Tonight,&uot; she told the crowd. &uot;Let us join together to celebrate life. One aspect of that celebration is to honor our valiant cancer survivors, as well as those who are no longer with us. Cancer shows no preference; it takes the old, young, mothers, father, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, best friends, and dear friends. Let us pay tribute to those we love, and all whose lives have been touched by cancer.&uot;

Local firefighter and 12-year cancer survivor Mason Copeland carried the Relay’s torch around the track, followed by optometrist David Lotz, who played &uot;Amazing Grace&uot; on the bagpipes. The lights went out, and the only brightness came from the luminary bags on the track, white parcels filled with candles that were lit for those who were looking down from above.

&uot;There’s a name of the ones who are still here,&uot; Zahn read from the poem &uot;Every Candle Has A Name.&uot; &uot;There’s a name of those gone we still hold dear. There’s a name, each one shining in the flames. And we know that every candle has a name.&uot;

One such candle had been lit by Lakeland High School freshman Kristi Hall, who lost her grandmother and uncle to the disease. &uot;This is a really good event to show your emotions,&uot; Hall said. &uot;Here, there’s a lot of people who have lost their friends and family members to cancer, who know how you feel. I just really hope they find a cure for it.&uot;