The 20th Relay for Life of Audrain County was held Saturday at the Mexico Middle School track.
The event is to raise money for the American Cancer Society and to honor those who have been affected by cancer. Awards were presented and speeches given. Team tents were placed around the track to raise money. At dusk the luminaria ceremony was held with the track lined with lights in honor or memory of cancer victims. Survivors began the relay with the first lap around the track, followed by their caregivers.
Two women who have been touched with cancer with family members spoke to those attending.
Elizabeth Gilman, told about how the American Cancer Society has been there for her father and mother, Joe and Dottie Offutt. Her father is in the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in St. Louis to be close to his doctors. It is completely funded by American Cancer Society money. There are 44 patient rooms, lounges and televisions, a kitchen they can cook in, activities for the patients and their caregivers. It is close to the hospital and pharmacy. Offutt told Gilman to tell those at the relay that it is a well-run facility with helpful employees, where they feel safe and secure.
Gilman also gave her thanks. "This is mostly from me. Thank you to all of you who support the American Cancer Society, because having a place to stay without worry or a financial burden is extremely beneficial and meaningful to parents, to kids who have to deal with this fight against cancer far from home. So thank you very much and God Bless You All."
Mike and Valerie White's family have been affected by cancer when their son, Lucas, was diagnosed with a brain tumor with a bleed. Lucas woke in the night last December with a severe headache.Taking headache medicine did not stop the pain. His mother said they became concerned when his mental status became altered. They took him to SSM St. Mary's Audrain and after a CT scan they were told he had a brain tumor that was bleeding. They were going to fly him to St. Louis, but that was when the area was hit with a ice storm, and they wouldn't fly him to St. Louis. He was taken to Columbia and ended up at the Women's and Children's Hospital where he had surgery on Monday. After all the results were in Lucas was diagnosed with Anaplastic Astrocytoma. They were told this kind of cancer is not supposed to happen to 17-year-old kids. Valerie White who was speaking for her family, said Lucas was a fighter. "He had brain surgery on Monday and went home on Thursday." He became chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
White said she recently found out the American Cancer Society has a Cancer Survivor Network. "By going on that website you can look at your specific cancer and there is a discussion board for Anaplastic Astrocytoma."
This year's theme for this year's relay is "Wish Upon a Cure."
The Whites wish that no parent has to be told their child has cancer. White also has her own wish. "My main wish is that everybody who is fighting this fight would have the support we have had with our community. We have had total strangers, friends, family, churches, organization step up and help us. It was just amazing," she said. "One of the things we had to learn how to do was to accept help and by doing so we have not had to worry about taking care of his medical bills. There have been donations that have covered that. So our focus has been on Lucas and his recovery. He is still fighting and is still going through the chemo therapy so our focus is on him and we don't have to worry about those things because we have such a wonderful community and surrounding community. So we thank you for that and I thank you guys for letting us be part of tonight."
Awards presented at the beginning of the event were the Dr. Ned Rodes Award which was presented to Mexico Elks Lodge 919 for all its support with the relay and for other events throughout the community. The Heart of The Relay Award was presented to Bill and Linda Reid, co-chairpersons of the event for the last two years.