Last updated: April 14. 2014 12:00PM - 777 Views
Steena Hymes shymes@civitasmedia.com



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Over 100 cancer survivors, caregivers and supporters came out to Baptist Tabernacle Saturday afternoon to attend the annual Survivor Luncheon hosted by Relay for Life.


Michael Jones, 10-year cancer survivor, hosted the the luncheon.


As Jones asked guests to stand on the announcement of how long they have been cancer-free, the room filled with survivors standing up to a round of applause from caregivers and supporters.


Musician Kevin Dunn entertained the luncheon with songs that inspired hope among those who have and are still battling cancer.


Anita Keith and her two daughters, Leigh Smith and Melissa Mathes were the keynote speakers. They represent three generations of cancer survivors. All three, in addition to Keith’s mother, were all diagnosed and survived cancer.


Leigh was the first to speak and reflected back to 2007 when following her mammogram and biopsy, she “just knew” she had breast cancer.


Leigh shared her struggle of the personal and difficult decision to have a double mastectomy.


“I had young children, I wanted to be able to watch them grow up,” Leigh smith.


Leigh also stressed the importance of caregivers and the vital role they play in the survivor’s journey. She also urged everyone to be diligent and responsible with their mammograms.


“I want all of you to know that there is hope and there is life after cancer,” Leigh said, ending her speech.


Keith spoke next about her journey and the many gifts she discovered during her battle. Keith was the first among the women to be diagnosed with breast cancer.


Mathes, the last to be diagnosed, found out she had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in April 2008. Mathes underwent six and half months of harsh chemotherapy.


During her chemo, Mathes worked two days a week at a nursing home so she could receive benefits, had chemo sessions four days a week and one day off.


In October of 2008, Mathes’ cancer went into remission.


“This was a wonderful experience today and we feel honored to be a part of this and just to know that we can be here to provide hope and strength,” Mathes said.


“Each of of us have been affected in some way by cancer,” Raquel Neal, co-chair of the Relay for Life Survivor Committee, said. “The reason we do the survivor luncheon is to celebrate the life and the hope that every single cancer survivor gives us every day.”

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