2014 Relay for Life
What: Bulloch County Relay for Life
When: 7 p.m. to midnight today
Where: Mill Creek Regional Park
Why: It's the largest fundraiser of the year for the American Cancer Society. Relay for Life celebrates cancer survivors and those who know someone with cancer, and honors the memory of those who have died of the disease. Funds raised benefit cancer research.
Information: http://relay.acsevents.org and search Statesboro, GA, or a local ZIP code.
Four years ago, Statesboro resident Lori Wiggins knew there was something wrong when she kept coughing and losing her voice. She visited doctor after doctor, with no answers, until one day a physician gave her the grave news; she suffered from a disease linked to cancer.
An operation to correct the condition helped, but at the same time caused further problems. In 2010, she was diagnosed with skin cancer after the procedure to correct precancerous conditions caused by Barrett's Esophagus Disease.
Today, she is cancer-free and devotes lots of time and effort to help raise funds to find a cure for cancer.
Like other cancer survivors, Wiggins will always remember how she felt when she heard the words, "You have cancer." Her world toppled.
"I was in total shock," she said. "I cried. I thought I would never see my daughter graduate, get married and have kids. I thought I would have to leave my husband behind. I wasn't prepared. It is a very weird feeling when you hear those words."
But the strong moral support of her friends and family, including her work family at Georgia Southern University, helped her fight the battle. Four years as a cancer survivor means so much to Wiggins, she has taken an active role in raising funds through the Bulloch County Relay for Life.
"I'm bound and determined to do what it takes," she said. "Relay means a lot to me. I've lost family and friends to the disease."
Having been a team co-captain in the past, Wiggins is now captain of her own team. She set a goal of raising $1,000, but as of Thursday afternoon she had surpassed her goal, having raised $2,100 on a personal level. With efforts from her team, the total is around $2,500, she said.
"I want to raise as much as I can," she said. "There is no room in this world for cancer, and I want there to be a cure. I will do as much as I can to be a part of it, and I want to be there when (a cure is found) so I can say I was a part of it."
As a member of the Bulloch County Relay for Life Committee, Wiggins has been responsible for recruiting church teams and others.
"I use my story as encouragement," she said. While some can only donate a small amount, "Every penny counts."
Wiggins visits a doctor every six months to keep track of her health and, so far, while the conditions remain precancerous, she is technically cancer free, she said.
Barrett's Esophagus Disease is linked to high acid levels, and the acid ate away at her stomach lining until her esophagus separated from her stomach, she said. Surgery to correct that caused the skin cancers — 15 total — to appear but, since then, she has not had recurring problems with that either, she said.
Wiggins is excited about Friday night's Relay for Life event and hopes citizens will attend to support the cause.
The 2014 Bulloch County Relay for Life event will be held from 7 p.m. to midnight, said Robin Peeples, community manager with the Bulloch County American Cancer Society chapter.
The event - held in a new location this year, Mill Creek Regional Park — includes a survivors' lap, karaoke, a live band, scavenger hunt and more. A survivor's dinner will be held at 6 p.m., with registration at 5:30 p.m., she said.
Luminaries purchased in honor of those who lost their lives to cancer or who have beaten the disease will be lit at 10 p.m., and teams will set up "campsites" with the theme "No Space in the World for Cancer." Individual teams will sell food and have other fundraising opportunities as well, she said.
For more information on the Relay for Life events, visit http://relay.acsevents.org.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.