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A Reason for Hope

    Cancer survivors at the 14th Annual Relay for Life Survivor Dinner Monday applauded Dr. Jeff Boyd when he told them there definitely is hope for a cure.
    Boyd, director of the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute at Savannah's Memorial Health University Medical Center, spoke Monday during the celebration of survival and said "There is reason for hope in terms of cancer.
    "There have been remarkable advances in cancer over the past 30 or 40 years," he said. "Rates are starting to decline."
    Back in the 1970's, "we had no idea what caused cancer," he said. Today, researchers have discovered it is a genetic disease that occurs when genes mutate.
    Information and technology play vital roles in research and seeking a cure, he said.
    But research needs funding, and events such as the Relay for Life bring in money that helps pay for research, he said.
    "We depend vitally on philanthropy ... volunteers ... and fund raisers," he said. "Researchers would not be able to do what we're able to do without the support of people such as yourselves."
    Boyd said he was impressed with the crowd Monday night at Pittman Park United Methodist Church.
    "I am shocked and surprised and delighted," he said. "The turnout is really impressive."
    Boyd's speech followed a performance by the Statesboro School of Dance - "Faith in Motion."  Cancer survivor Theresa Hackle presented Boyd with piece from Statesboro photographer Lori Grice's collection, which she autographed.    
    Throughout the night the focus was on survivors, with gifts given to each of them ad special awards given to the person who has survived cancer the longest - 51 years - and was most recently diagnosed - five weeks.
    Cancer survivors visited with each other and shared tales of their challenges and blessings in surviving the disease.
    Betty Deal was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago.
    "Oh, it's wonderful to be here, so supportive, to be recognized as a survivor," she said.
    Glen Messer was diagnosed with kidney cancer 35 years ago, and also survived lung cancer, he said.
    Attending the survivor dinner was a chance to "enjoy each other - and enjoy life," he said.
    Katherine Smith said she was touched to have been invited to the dinner.
    "After going through radiation and chemotherapy, when someone does something like this for me, it makes me feel very special," she said.
    Cancer survivors attending the dinner came from all walks of life. Some were grandmothers or grandfathers. Some were children. All shared a common experience.
    It was Dec. 1, 2005 when Erin Haskins, 15, learned she had a brain tumor, but she knows its proper name.
    She smiled as she spelled "craniopharyngioma," and said she first learned there was a problem when she suffered severe headaches. "I was scared - really scared," she said with a shy smile.
    But being at the Cancer Survivor Dinner Monday meant a great deal to the teen.
    How did she feel about being there? "Happy, really, because I beat it," she said. "I have something in common with all the people in this room. We've beaten our cancer."
    And Erin had advice for anyone learning they have the disease: "Don't give up. Keep fighting."
    God gave her strength to fight, and "I pray and read the Bile every day," she said.
    Colon Cancer survivor Brenda Lee learned she had cancer seven years ago, and today she serves on  the planning committee for the Bulloch county Relay for Life.
    "We're doing this to find a cure so the next generation won't have to go through what we did," she said.
    The Bulloch County Relay for Life event will be held April 20 at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds on Ga. 67.
    Teams will take laps around a track to raise money for research and awareness education. Games, food sales, and other ways to raise funds will also be featured as teams camp out all night. Camp sites are decorated with themes as part of the fun, and the track is lined with luminaries in honor of cancer victims.

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