BY FAITH HARPER
JACKSONVILLE — Cancer survivors and caregivers met Tuesday evening to celebrate life and hope for a cure.
The annual Cherokee County Relay For Life Celebration dinner, was held at the Legacy, 782 County Road 1511, as a way to bring a community of people affected by cancer together, said Cindy Kline, the nonprofit’s chairwoman.
“It’s to take a moment out of our busy schedules to show support and encouragement with those in our community that battle this disease,” she said. “One out of every two men and one out of three women will have cancer. If you don’t have it, you are going to know and love someone that does unless we find the cure. We want to celebrate life and celebrate them.”
Dinner guests were pampered with a catered barbeque dinner and desert served at their tables by Jacksonville Boy Scout Troop 434. While they dinned, local gospel singer Miles Pike engaged the audience in a sing-along with the Christian hymn “How Great Thou Art.”
“It’s a wonderful event that they put on, and they put a lot of hard work, effort, love and care into orchestrating an event like this, which brings so many people together from all walks (of life),” said Amy McCalister, a 12-year survivor of thyroid cancer.
Mrs. McCalister, 42, said she is both a survivor and caregiver. Her husband, Mike, is four years cancer free from an oral cancer.
The couple was fresh to the area with a 4-month-old child when she was first diagnosed, and Cherokee County never hesitated to help. It was a chance meeting with the Rusk librarian Amy Derrington, who also volunteers with the cancer society, that led Mrs. McCalister to the services she needed.
“She hooked me up, got me to sign paperwork and got me a gas card,” Mrs. McCaliser said. “She was literally a Godsend to me at the time.”
The couple got more involved with Cherokee County Relay For Life after her husband’s diagnosis.
“Every day is a blessing,” she said. “Every day, it’s a birthday.”
Johnny Emerson, spoke to the crowd about his experiences with the disease, which took the lives of his uncle, mother-in-law and late wife.
“Cancer is a terrible sickness,” he said. “It doesn’t discriminate between young or old, male or female — it doesn’t make any difference. It’s devastating, and it’s truly an enemy to all of mankind regardless of color, creed or religious preference — every human being, cancer has no respect for. Our united efforts should be to support in organizations like this.”