The 11th annual Relay for Life Cancer Survivor’s Dinner was held Friday, May 20, at the Cowee Baptist Church Fellowship Hall.
Event Coordinator Phyllis Castle said that the dinner was just one way of honoring the people whose lives have been touched by cancer. She said that usually 250-300 people attend these events.
There were a diverse group of survivors at Friday’s dinner. Some had found out about having cancer as early as three months ago and then there were some that had survived cancer for more than 40 years.
Theresa Wilkes, part of the Angel Medical Center Outpatient Department and a member of the Relay for Life committee, said that, “no matter how long it has been, every patient is a survivor from the moment they receive their diagnosis because that is when they begin fighting.”
The committee members were the servers for a Salisbury steak and gravy dinner.
The guest speaker for the evening was Kaye Rickman, a six-year survivor of breast cancer. Rickman is a native of Macon County and is a member of Cowee Baptist Church. She first had to deal with immediate family having cancer, before having it herself.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” said Rickman, describing what it was like to learn that she had cancer. Just like every survivor in the room, Rickman had to deal with the ups and downs of the disease itself and of chemotherapy. Yet, despite the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual struggles being “the worst of times,” things such as time, family, faith, hope, strength, and everyday life were put into a different perspective. Other things became important, like, spending time with family and making a difference with your life. These became “the best of times.”
Wilkes admitted that the one thing their patients have taught them is how to truly “live” just like in the well-known song by Tim McGraw, “Live Like You Were Dying.”
Charlie McClane was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2003.
“The diagnosis was bleak at best and I started a mixture of three different chemotherapies, but I took a lot of comfort from Psalm 139:15-16,” said McClane. “I still have a life to live with my wife and children. Now I have been cancer free for eight and a half years and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for letting me live another day ... It is a real pleasure to be able to come to this dinner.”
It is fitting that this is the third year Cowee Church has hosted this event because faith and hope are such an important part of each survivor’s story. After dinner, guests were invited to the church sanctuary to listen to a special concert by the Cowee Baptist choir. They sang of hope, the Father’s love, and eternal life.
Afterwards, Pastor David Powell read Romans 8:35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”
Powell encouraged each person who has had to really face mortality this way, that cancer was included in all of those things and that cancer was not an end, but rather, a beginning to a better eternal life if they allowed Christ to lead them.
In her speech, Rickman said that music helped her to deal with her cancer; especially the song: “This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.”
A Relay for Life benefit will be held on Thursday, June 2, at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts with performances by Ron McGehee and Kerri Pomarolli. Tickets are $15.