10th Relay raises six figures

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 22, 2005

From the outset, Brian Perry seems like any other six-year-old. He likes riding four-wheelers, watching television, and always has a ready smile that might be missing a few teeth.

No one could know that, before he was even old enough to attend Southwestern Elementary, Brian had to fight a battle that no one his age should be forced into.

Just before he turned two, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

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&uot;Brian was sick a lot for the first year,&uot; said his mother Angela, &uot;but he’s always been very strong. Suffolk is like a family; we’ve had a lot of support from the community.&uot;

For over three years now, Brian has been in remission. On Friday night, he was the youngest participant in the Cancer Survivors’ Walk at the 10th annual Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy. Every year, the event kicks off with a lap by those who have beaten or are fighting the disease.

&uot;That was fun!&uot; Brian said, flashing that aforementioned grin. &uot;It made me happy.&uot;

Lizzie Dorschel’s in the same boat as he; she’s beaten a brain tumor twice.

&uot;It’s fun,&uot; said Lizzie, 12, who raised over $600 for the Relay with some of her classmates early in the week. &uot;I feel great because I got to walk. I’ve been through (cancer) and I hope that everyone else can get through it too.&uot;

On the other side of the spectrum was Margaret Smith, who has survived breast cancer for nearly a quarter-century.

&uot;It feels wonderful to beat the odds,&uot; said Smith, who underwent a mastectomy and a full year of chemotherapy to take care of the disease. &uot;It’s better than the alternative. We’re raising funds for a dreaded disease and bringing the community together for a wonderful cause.&uot;

At press time, the Relay had brought in roughly $200,000. Forced inside by Friday’s rain, the hundreds in attendance made do inside NSA. Luminary bags (though unfortunately unlit) purchased in honor or memory of those who have battled cancer were taped to the bleachers. Walkers strolled around and around the gym, passing exhibits from such local organizations as Re/Max Across Town, Physical Therapy Works and the Suffolk YMCA. Over in the cafeteria, local groups like the Peanut City Cloggers, the Nansemond River High chorus and the All-American Spirit cheerleading squad provided some entertainment.

After his colleague Kerri Fuery of WAVY-10 news read off a list of survivors, WVEC chief meteorologist Jeff Lawson welcomed the crowd in memory of his former newscasting colleague Terry Zahn, who lost his fight with cancer in 1999.

&uot;I started walking when my uncle and my wife’s friend were diagnosed,&uot; he said. &uot;After Terry died, I started doing many of these events.

&uot; A lot of people care about various causes, but they don’t always act on them. Cancer is so prevalent in our society, but it has the potential to be cured. We’ve made great progress, and we can get more and more people living longer.&uot;