LAURINBURG — When a phalanx of cancer survivors laps the Pate Stadium track during next month’s Relay for Life, they will be sent on their way with a sense of how lucky they are.
More than 150 of them, along with their friends and family members, attended a banquet in their honor this week at Laurinburg Presbyterian Church, where the hall was decorated with giant dice and some volunteers suited up as casino dealers in keeping with this year’s “Win A Cure” theme.
Attendees were served dinner — ham, green beans, and potato salad courtesy of General McArthur’s — by a horde of volunteers. Scotland Memorial Hospital oncology social worker Mary Callahan-Lopez, who helped organize the banquet, said that the show practically runs itself.
“It’s really a community of people, and they’re very eager to jump in and participate,” she said. “When you have eager volunteers who are willing to be a part of something great, it makes it very easy.”
Survivor Iris Overby recounted the day of her diagnosis and the initial sense of shock and anger that came with it. As someone who tried to lead a healthy, active lifestyle, Overby resented the “stupid, aggravating” disease.
“After I got in my car to come home, I was by myself and I cried all the way home,” she said. “I was mad; I was not, however, mad at God.
“Once I got over my pity party on my way home, I started fighting.”
Within months, Overby was cancer-free in April 2013.
“It’s so good to see so many people out here that deal with this on a day-to-day basis, and I hope that we continue to work hard together to strive to find a cure,” she told the crowd gathered at Thursday’s banquet. “We may never, in some of our lifetimes do that, but hopefully, eventually, we will.”
As the evening’s entertainment, Krazy Feet Dance Company clogged their way through scenes from “Peter Pan.” The banquet was dedicated to the memory of Hospice nurse and longtime Relay for Life supporter Linda Fletcher.
“For us, survivors are very important, and I think for survivors that thought of recurrence never lingers far from their mind, and so to come together as a community is very reassuring and very supportive to the survivors as a group,” said Callahan-Lopez.
Relay for Life will begin at 3 p.m. on Oct. 2, with opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. Pate Stadium will close at midnight and reopen from 7 a.m. to noon on Oct. 3, reducing manpower during the hours when few walkers traditionally remain.
“Over the years, there are a few faithful that are there … we’re going to ask them to go home and get some rest,” said Relay co-chair Stewart Thomas. “It’s taking away no significance from the event whatsoever, it’s just trying to take the cost and the effort and the energy that we’re putting into it and trying to maximize the benefit.”
Other events within Relay for Life include a 9 p.m. luminary service and the Colors of Hope 5K Run/Walk at 9 a.m. on Oct. 3.
“The whole purpose behind this is to get as many people involved to raise that awareness as far as cancer is concerned and to get more people to participate in the Scotland County Relay for Life,” Thomas said.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.