Walking for a cure

PERKINS TWP. Each time April Davis looks at her young son, she's reminded how close she was to becom
Annie Zelm
May 24, 2010

 

PERKINS TWP.

Each time April Davis looks at her young son, she's reminded how close she was to becoming another statistic.

Because a rare form of cancer developed during her pregnancy, Davis, 32, and her son Tyler, 2, both wear the matching purple shirts of survivors.

After her first trimester, the Sandusky mother learned she had borderline ovarian cancer -- a slow-growing but serious tumor that progressed more quickly because of her pregnancy.

"I was told I had six months to live, and I had to decide whether to keep (Tyler) or not," she said. "Fortunately, with the treatments they were able to remove all of it, and he was considered a survivor since the day he was born."

Pushing her son in a stroller, Davis was one of the hundreds who came together Friday evening to walk a lap of victory around the Perkins High School track.

The survivor's lap was the official kick-off for Sandusky's 11th Annual Relay for Life.

American Cancer Society event coordinator Lisa Smith said this year's fundraiser was among the most successful yet.

"We're going into the evening with more than $15,000 already raised (for cancer research)," she said. "We have more than280 survivors, and the weather is beautiful."

More than 2,000 luminaries lined the outside of the track -- each of which would shine brightly later to represent the spirit of someone who either overcame or lost a battle with cancer.

Led by a colorful Chinese dragon and banners emblazoned with the motto,"Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back," thesurvivors walked to the tune of a Faith Hill song, "Red Umbrella."

The song spoke of keeping high hopes throughout life's unexpected storms and reminded them that they would be protected.

Some were unable to walk but came to cheer on the others.

"I couldn't make it all the way around, so I took a shortcut with my wife," said John Ginty, 83, who sat underneath the survivor's tent with his wife, Shirley.

The Sandusky resident, who survived three types of cancer and is still undergoing treatment for skin cancer, said the walk gives him hope that a cure will one day be found.

"The research is paying off," he said, "but young people today, even though they recognize the hazards of things like tanning and smoking, they still do it."

Robert Moore, 50, arrived at the track within an hour of finishing chemotherapy, in spite of feeling nauseated. He is considered a survivor of two months but still requires daily radiation treatments.

"I didn't want to miss it," Moore said. "This gives me strength to try and fight it."

His mother, Ruth Moore, 70, who survived breast and colon cancer, said she was amazed by how widespread the disease is.

"It just seems like every year, there's more and more," she said. "I'll do anything I can do to help -- if it takes walking, I'll walk."

Though there were tears and moments of solemn remembrance, the event was anything but somber.

Booths around the track offered face painting, carnival games, hot dogs and homemade sweets. Groups wearing matching T-shirts, including a large troupe from Macy's, set up tents to camp overnight.

For the "Miss Relay" contest, a group of men modeled evening gowns, flamboyant feather boas and stilettos.

Sporting a glittering purple gown and the stage name "Bambi," Jeff Kearney took the title for the third consecutive year.

"The only thing I had help with was the eyelashes," he said.

Though she was proud to stand in support the many others who survived or still battled cancer, April Davis said the event was bittersweet.

"Just watching everybody, a lot of people went through more than I have," she said. "People have been fighting for years, and that's what gets me ... that's what makes this event so worthwhile."