Pointing to a picture of last year’s event, the 64-year-old Cartersville resident said the opportunity for her and her niece to cap off their successful fight with breast cancer by walking in the Survivor Group Lap was a joyous and touching experience.
“This was one of the greatest, most moving moments of my life. This is my niece and myself walking in the survivor lap,” McCoy said, referring to the Relay for Life image. “[My niece] is a nurse at Kennestone. She had a job and two children, and while I was going through [breast cancer], she was going through it plus working. She was an inspiration to me. I kind of took a break from life for [awhile] but she had the obligations that she had to keep going. We’d been through this [battle with cancer] at the same time. I was two weeks behind her in treatment, so I got to be with her on her last treatment. In the infusion room, we were side by side.
“... [We] had been through this journey in 2011 and in 2012 we’ve got on T-shirts [at Relay for Life’s Survivor Group Lap], we’ve had a good dinner. We’re walking around. There’s all these people with purple T-shirts and we all have balloons. You let the balloon go at a certain time, like [for] a certain year of survivorship. People are all around and clapping and yelling and loving you and supporting you. And you are there supporting each other, supporting other survivors and trying, trying to get a cure for this disease, this horrible disease.”
Diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2011, McCoy received eight chemotherapy treatments, underwent a double mastectomy and the removal of eight lymph nodes under her left arm prior to starting 30 radiation treatments at The Hope Center in Cartersville. Considering herself fortunate to have had a network of support — from her husband, Jim, relatives and the Heritage Baptist Church congregation — during her cancer journey, McCoy felt led to assist other cancer patients and survivors. Along with raising money for American Cancer Society through its Relay for Life event, she also volunteers with the nonprofit’s Road to Recovery program, driving cancer patients to treatments when needed.
“Last year, I said, ‘OK, I’m going to get through this,’ and I saw that I did get through it,” said McCoy, who is helping Relay for Life’s efforts as a member of the local event’s committee and Heritage Baptist Church’s fundraising team. “[Then] I said, ‘OK, why am I through it and somebody that’s 35 with little children are not?’ or ‘Why did I have everything I needed to fight?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m not any better than anybody else, so maybe I can help somebody that wasn’t as fortunate as me.’ I can’t stress enough how much I got from God’s grace and prayer and my church was just unbelievable. And then when I joined Relay the first year, I got an idea of what it takes to put [on] Relay for Life. It’s just amazing. You’ve got so many in committee that do this and that, and these people are giving of their time. They’re not paid. They’re some survivors and I would say the majority of them had been touched by cancer in some way.
“... [Through my volunteer work with the American Cancer Society] I’m learning so much. It makes me feel less like a victim of cancer and more of a foot soldier in the battle. That sounds kind of dramatic, but that’s how I feel. I feel like I’m actually doing something. ... I can’t tell you how much that I believe in Relay for Life and I believe in the American Cancer Society. Every single day I think most of us here know someone with cancer — a friend, a family member, a boss. It’s just constant, but there is more survivors. It used to be a death sentence. It’s not a death sentence anymore. It’s not an easy thing to get through, but it’s something that you can get through.”
In its 20th year in Cartersville, American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life benefit on Friday and Saturday is trying to raise $325,000. The overnight event in which team members will take turns walking around the Dellinger Park track will culminate months of fundraising by participants. Last year, 109 teams generated more than $300,000 for the ACS, which provides information, offers programs to patients, and funds research for cancer treatments and cures.
At the beginning of the event, survivors will be treated to a complimentary dinner in which they will be served by medical professionals from the Cartersville Medical Center, The Hope Center and Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers P.C. At 5 p.m. on Friday, the meal will be catered by Johnny Mitchell’s Smokehouse and consist of wild cherry smoked chicken, garlic herb mashed potatoes, Southern-style green beans, buns, pickles, barbecue sauce, tea, water and birthday cake from Agan’s Bakery. While the survivors’ meals are free, they can bring a guest to dine with them for $10.
“The Survivor Dinner at the Relay for Life is probably one of the community events I most enjoy each year,” said Ginger Tyra, director of marketing and public relations for the Cartersville Medical Center. “It’s very gratifying for us, as healthcare professionals who treat cancer patients every day, to celebrate survivors by serving a nice dinner, planned especially for them.
“For an hour and a half, we share hugs, laughter and enjoy the casual atmosphere — outside the hospital or treatment center — with these courageous individuals.The interaction between our physicians, nurses and other medical professionals with the survivors who pass through the serving line is priceless and full of unforgettable moments.”
In addition to the dinner, local organizers also are recruiting individuals to participate in the Survivor Group Lap Friday at 7 p.m. As with the dinner, the initial lap is open to people who are cancer-free, and residents who recently have been diagnosed, are going through treatment or are in remission.
Cancer survivors are encouraged to pre-register for the dinner by visiting www.bartowrelayforlife.org. Participants also can sign up for the dinner and Survivor Group Lap Friday at 5 p.m. In addition to the local Relay for Life’s website, people can contact Gretchen Barkley — American Cancer Society’s northwest Georgia senior community manager — at 770-429-1624 for more information.