Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Hazel Swails, an Andrews native, and Eloise Smith and Betty Roberts, both of Georgetown, have each battled and survived cancer.
They are among hundreds of people who’s bravery will be celebrated this spring in Relay for Life fundraising events, sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
A Relay for Life event for Georgetown and Pawleys Island will be held on April 26 and 27 at the Georgetown High School football field. That event will start at 7 p.m. and end at 7 a.m.
On May 17 and 18 there will be one at Andrews High School football field from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. this year.
Most events are held all night to symbolize the struggles a cancer survivor goes through, living in darkness and finally reaching the light of day, said Betty Ruth Herdman, local community manager for the American Cancer Society.
The relay begins with a survivor lap and continues with one person from each team on the track. The events also include entertainment, vendors, games and speakers. It is not too late to register teams, organizers say.
Swails, Smith and Roberts, who have all played roles in American Cancer Society programs, say the main reason to support Relay for Life events is to help raise funds for cancer research.
“Cancer research has made possible treatments that we didn’t have 10 years ago,” Swails said. She will be the speaker for the Andrews event.
Smith agreed saying that having local Relay for Life events has helped bring the Yawkee Cancer Research Center to Georgetown.
“A percentage of the money raised from the Relay for Life helps locally,” Smith said. “
Roberts said the events are also important for awareness.
“The awareness it has brought to everyone involved is amazing,” Roberts said. “Many people who take part have never had cancer, but they are there to support their family and friends.”
Swails, a career nurse with Georgetown Hospital System, has been diagnosed with cancer four times, each time facing the dreaded disease with a strong will and positive attitude.
“I learned a long time ago, if I got it, I got it,” Swails said. “You can either sit in the corner and cry or do what you’ve got to do to get rid of it. If it is God’s will, you will beat it, if it is not God’s will, there is no way to beat it anyway. I knew I couldn’t cure it, so I had to rely on the doctors to do what they do.”
Unfortunately, shortly after she received news that she had beat cancer for the fourth time, she found out her husband, Barry, who helped her through many difficult recovery periods after radiation and chemotherapy treatments, has brain cancer.
He is undergoing treatment now.
Smith is a 20-year breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed with cancer again four years ago.
She urges people who are going through treatment to take part in ACS programs like “Look Good Feel Better,” which helps women adjust to using wigs and makeup after losing hair, and “Reach to Recovery” which offers counseling for women going through cancer treatments.
Roberts is a recent breast cancer survivor who lost her husband, Harold, to cancer last year.
She agrees that the programs are important, stating that losing hair is a devastating thing for women and she helped establish the Look Good Feel Better program in Georgetown County.
“We usually try to get them to look on the bright side saying, ‘At least you don’ have to shave your legs or your underarms,” Roberts said. “There are also support groups for women with breast cancer, including Bosom Buddies.”
For information about Relay for Life events, or to sign up a team, people can visit relayforlife.org, or call Herdman at 843-504-6115.
An American Cancer Society hotline is open to anyone 24/7 for questions about cancer, or if people need a caring, trained professional to talk with about concerns.
People can also get a list of questions to ask their doctor about cancer.
That number is 1-800-227-2345. For other ACS programs, people can visit www.cancer.org.
By Clayton Stairs