May 30, 2012 - Ginny Gentry is a cancer survivor.
As such, the 81-year-old Brandon Township resident is eligible to walk in a special survivor lap to kick-off the 2012 Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville, planned for 10 a.m. June 16 to 10 a.m. June 17 at Varsity Drive Football Field, 209 Varsity Drive, Ortonville.
The 24-hour walk is the American Cancer Society's signature event to raise funds and awareness for all types of cancers. This is the fifth year in a row that the event will be held in this community, and Gentry last walked the survivor lap two years ago, but she could have walked the survivor lap every year Ortonville has hosted the Relay, as she has been cancer free for more than six years.
"It's very inspiring," said Gentry of the Relay. "And it's very nice to walk with all the other survivors. I also walked when the luminarias were lit up... I feel very fortunate, very fortunate."
Gentry underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy and credits prayers and good doctors for her recovery that has allowed her to continue enjoying life and her family, including husband Dale Richmond, her five children, his three children and their 18 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren (with another on the way).
Rosemarie Brooks has been battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for 10 years and has been through four different chemotherapy courses, the last of which "seems to have done the job."
"I feel fine, thank heavens," said Brooks, 77, a Brandon Township resident. "You're sitting there and they say cancer and it's an out-of-body experience. You mean me? But I've handled everything they've done and just keep going. Anything that helps with research and funding is a worthwhile endeavor."
The public is invited to attend the Relay to enjoy the fun, in which they can walk or just view the festivities. Teams averaging 12-15 members apiece will partake in themed laps. The party-like atmosphere also includes a disc jockey, live musical entertainment, bounce houses, dunk tanks, clowns, volleyball, and much more. On hand this year too will be radio personalities from 105.1 FM. In the evening, a touching luminaria ceremony honors those who have lost their fight to the disease.
The Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville has a goal this year of raising $86,010 in the fight against cancer. Funds raised at Relay events support numerous services offered to cancer patients.
Danell Duff, a Groveland Township resident who is participating in the Relay for Life, is well-versed in the programs offered through the ACS, using various services after being diagnosed with lymphoma in July 2010.
Duff was treated with chemotherapy and even her hair began falling out from the treatment, she went to "Look Good, Feel Better," a program in which volunteer beauticians teach cancer patients how to choose a wig, apply cosmetics to mask the loss of eyebrows and eyelashes, and tie a scarf, among other beauty tricks.
"It was my first support group," recalls Duff, who was pronounced cancer-free after completing chemotherapy. "It made an impact on me immediately."
She also benefitted from a service called "personal care manager" in which she received a folder to organize doctor's records, track side effects, and keep treatment options.
Speakers at Relay will speak about these services and more, including the "Road to Recovery," in which patients can receive rides to chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
"This year we are trying to incorporate a lot of the missions for ACS into lap themes and activities to reinforce the message," Duff said. "A lot of times people ask, 'Why do you relay? Is it because you lost a loved one or are currently battling cancer?' But the bigger thing is, 'What does relay do?' It funds these programs. One of the things that drew me to ACS is they don't turn anyone away. You don't have to have breast or colon cancer, it can be any kind of cancer. Sometimes there is a cost incurred with these services, but they are open to everyone. This is how your donations are being used."
Duff encourages the community to attend Relay to learn more and enjoy the family event.
"It's a carnival-like atmosphere and it's just a really great, fun, family activity."
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville