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Hope fills Silver Relay for Life Survivor Dinner
Relay dinner
James F. Smith, who has been a colon cancer survivor for 18 years, visits with his sister-in-law Mary Martin, a cancer survivor of two years. The two were among hundreds of cancer survivors honored Monday at the 25th Bulloch County Relay for Life Cancer Survivor Dinner held at Pittman Park United Methodist Church. - photo by HOLLI DEAL BRAGG/staff
    The message was of hope and change Monday at the Bulloch County Relay for Life’s 25th “Silver” anniversary celebration and Survivor Dinner.
    Dr. David Weems, of the South Georgia Center for Cancer Care, spoke of dramatic changes and advances in cancer care; local talent Robin Wooten gave inspiration through music, and Tessa Martin catered a delectable meal for the Survivor Dinner held at Pittman Park United Methodist Church,
    Cancer survivors from all walks of life attended the dinner celebrating their survivorship and kicking off the Relay for Life events leading up the the main event in April. Survivors were gifted with bags containing pins, caps, and tee shirts emblazoned with the Relay for Life emblems.
    Weems, who has been with the South Georgia Center for Cancer Care since 12989 but recently took charge of the center, said changes in  the cancer world are “so incredible it is hard to describe  them.”
    He showed a computer plan for cancer radiation from 1996 — comprised of lines and primitive drawings, the showed a cancer plan made two weeks ago — with bold color images and specific color-coded areas showing where radiation ( and how much) would be done.
    “And things are continuing to change,” he said, emphasizing how important computers are today in helping with cancer care.
    Patients can be monitored daily with image guided therapy, he said. “The big thing is, our techniques are improving ... our technology is improving ... this has really been a revolution of computers.
    Surgical techniques are improving ... robotics are out now ... everything is starting to revolutionize and it’s hard to keep up with.”
    That’s why cancer patients should not despair, but keep fighting, he said. “It gets the message out  -don’t ever stop, don’t ever give up.”
    Weems encouraged  those with cancer — and those whose cancer is in remission — to “be an educated patient. Find out whatever it is you’re being diagnosed with” and research all you can about it, he said.
    Others gave inspirational speeches, including event chair Chris Mitrisin and event coordinator/survivor Edie Olliff.
    Awards were given, including special recognition of four of the community’s youngest cancer survivors; Katie Nesmith, Madison Merrifield, Bill Bates and Erin Haskins.
    “Celebrate the past and fight for the future,” Olliff said. “Relay is  the connection that brings these things together.”
    As they dined on roast beef with  gravy, roast potatoes and mixed vegetables, salad and dessert, survivors socialized with each other and spoke about their cancer.
    Jake Minick has been a survivor for nine and a half years. Hormone therapy helped him deal with prostate cancer. “I feel good that I am able to be here,” he said. “Any time you have cancer, it scares you. I’ve gotten along really well with it.”
    Jeanette Turner was hit with a quadruple whammy — melanoma, brain tumor, lung tumor and small tumors in her chest area, all discovered last October.
    In spite of the gravity of her diagnosis and undergoing chemotherapy, she said her first reaction was denial. “This isn’t me,” she thought. But then, reality settled in, and she decided to fight.
    “If I have cancer, I’m going to lick it,” she said. “The only way to do it is keep on going.”
    James F. Smith has been cancer free for 18 years. A colonoscopy revealed cancer, and his doctor performed surgery right then and  there. Smith did not learn he had cancer until after it had been removed, and said he is grateful for the early detection.
    “I said ‘wow,’” he said, recalling how he felt when the doctor revealed what he had found. “It was a blessing he could go ahead and do it (surgery) when he did.”
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