Relay offers hope

Published 10:20 pm Friday, May 19, 2017

Kim Boone and Ruby Evans are on opposite ends of the cancer journey.

Boone was just diagnosed in August with breast cancer and is still undergoing treatment. Evans, on the other hand, has beat cancer four times and is still going strong.

But on Friday night, they and hundreds of others had one thing in common: the 2017 Relay for Life of Suffolk, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

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“I feel like this is the way to get the word out to other people,” Evans said about why she supports Relay. She’s fought off cancer in her breast, lung, esophagus, neck and stomach. “This is the way to get people to take care of themselves and go to the doctor and get their yearly checkup, because you never know what’s there.”

Reuther Haden, a 10-year-old cancer survivor who attends Oakland Elementary School, fills luminaria bags during Relay for Life on Friday at Nansemond River High School.

Indeed, taking care of herself was how Boone found the lump in her breast last year. She was diagnosed in August with triple-negative breast cancer — a form that can be aggressive and more likely to recur — and has been undergoing treatment. She has one more treatment left — “I hope,” she added.

Hope is always a central theme of Relay. This year’s event on Friday at Nansemond River High School included a more immediate hope — the hope that the event would be able to be held outside.

Participants scrambled for the gymnasium as a line of thunderstorms rolled through just as the event was about to start. The opening ceremonies were held inside, and the all-clear was given to return to the track just before 7 p.m.

Once again outside with cooler weather, participants shared their hopes for the future of cancer. Many said they came to encourage and show support for survivors as much as to help beat cancer.

“We want to let them know they’re not in it alone,” said Yvondre Credle of the Sentara Cancer Network Heroes of Hope team. “There are people who care about the journey they are on.”

The theme for the event was superheroes, so many people had on shirts or capes featuring their favorite superheroes of the Batman or Wonder Woman variety. But the more personal superheroes — those who have fought cancer — were at the top of everyone’s mind.

“Losing my mother last year to this horrible disease at only 60 years old changed me,” said Suffolk Parks and Recreation Director Lakita Watson, speaking at the beginning of the event in place of Mayor Linda T. Johnson, who was stuck in traffic and unable to make it to the opening ceremonies. “Let us look into a future where we can see an end to cancer.”