Relay raises money, spirits in battle with cancer

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Beverly Banks has reason to celebrate.

Friday night into Saturday morning, along with more than 90 other cancer survivors and about 1,000 supporters at the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life in the North Cape County Park, she walked. It marked her first anniversary as a three-time cancer survivor.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago, chemotherapy treatments helped save her life.

But little did she know her battle with cancer was just beginning, and persistent research resulting in new forms of cancer medicine would continue to aid her in her battle for the next two decades, she said.

"It is fund raisers like this that helped save my life," Banks said. "It is important to know that there is hope beyond the day."

The Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society's signature fund raiser. The event, put on by the Jackson and Cape Girardeau chapters of the American Cancer Society, brought crowds out to the park as the sun began to set Friday to celebrate the survivors, remember those who lost the battle, and raise money to fight the disease, said Tim Hahn, chairman of the event.

The goal of the relay is to keep at least one member of each team, which consists of 15 to 20 people, walking on the track throughout the night.

Dozens of tents were set up around the lake, filled with jubilant teams eager to tout the cause of the night, and despite claps of thunder and strikes of lighting early Saturday morning the event was a huge success, Hahn said.

"We are incredibly excited about the outcome," said Hahn, early Saturday morning. "We just had an unbelievable night."

When the final tally was taken, the effort raised $123,506.80 to aid in research, education, advocacy efforts and patient services, said Julie Causey, income specialist for the American Cancer Society's local chapter.

While some took a more traditional route in raising money, such as asking for donations or pledges, other teams used wider means.

The team sponsoring Banks, Beverly's Brave Hearts, raffled tickets to raise money for the cause. In addition, the team sold ice cream and massages throughout the night to add to their total.

"Everyone on this team knows someone who has been affected by cancer," said Michaele Riley, Beverly's Brave Hearts team captain. "It really helps to raise people's spirits, but it is also a blast."

Six years after Banks' struggle with breast cancer, her physician informed her that she had colon cancer.

Once again, with a courageous spirit and innovative therapy, Banks fought and won.

But a year and half ago, over 18 years after the then two-time survivor was first diagnosed with cancer, Banks learned that her breast cancer had returned. But this time, because of other health concerns, chemotherapy was no longer an effective treatment.

When Banks thought she had no other option, continued research made available an alternative drug, known as Femara. It came on the market only five years before her most recent diagnosis, she said.

"If it wasn't available I may not be here," Banks said.

Banks successfully defeated her third clash with cancer and remains determined to continue raising awareness while raising funds to continue research.

Although the multitudes of people celebrated with Banks and other survivors, the night turned somber.

After darkness dominated the sky, hundreds of luminarias circled the perimeter of the lake, each bearing the name of one who was not as fortunate as Banks.

But advances in medicine and research in recent years are making the chances of survival among cancer patients more likely.

In the 1940s, only one in four cancer patients survived, but now nearly half of all patients are conquering the disease, according to the Web site medicinenet.com.

"As each year goes by we have more and more reason to celebrate," Banks said. "What a celebration."

bchapman@semisssourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: