“Both my grandmothers had cancer and they were both dear to me. And that’s originally why I got involved with Relay, and then after being diagnosed myself, of course, the drive was even more there to have awareness out,” said Porter, who resides in Kingston with her husband, Tommy, and daughter, Mya. “... [At Relay] I love how many people are there.
“Generally [cancer has] affected almost every person in some aspect — family member, neighbor. In some aspect [they have] been affected. And we’re all there for the same cause, which is to try to find a cure. I look at my daughter and hope that there is one, so that she’ll never have to hear those words.”
After experiencing symptoms ranging from swelling in her abdomen to referred pain in her left side, Porter was diagnosed with carcinoma of the appendix in 2008. Once her appendix was removed, medical professionals did not recommend further treatment.Participating in the Relay benefit for nearly 10 years, Porter’s first year as a cancer survivor in which she took part in the survivors’ group lap and dinner was extremely touching.
“I really think [my family] just could not believe [my diagnosis]. They were in complete shock,” Porter said. “So at that point, I felt like I had to be strong — I’m going to be fine, I’m going to make it. I was trying to be positive but, at the same time inside, you’re really falling apart because you don’t know what the unexpected is.
“... I had such a short time to deal with it, when other people [there] I know had been through so much and dealing with it for years on years,” she said, referring to her first time experiencing Relay as a cancer survivor. “I walked around the track with my daughter [knowing] it was God’s will for me to still be here and for them to be able to find [the tumor]. I was just happy to be walking. [I enjoyed] talking with other people and [hearing] their experiences. At the same time with people going through it, [I was] just trying to be strong for them. There can be some positives that come out of it as well. I know two little girls that are special to me that have cancer. Looking at them, I know that I want to [participate in Relay] to help them and I think that it’s rewarding to try to help each other in that journey. You just get a lot of reward out of it — seeing a smile.”
In its 19th year in Cartersville, the ACS’s Sept. 7 benefit is trying to recruit 119 teams and collect $319,000. Among the numerous participating groups, Porter’s Melissa and Co. Salon team has been actively fundraising, organizing a high heel parade on Aug. 18 and the members will be offering upstyles at the event for a small donation.
The overnight event in which team members will take turns walking around Cartersville’s Dellinger Park track will culminate months of fundraising by participants. Last year, 106 teams generated $272,000 for the American Cancer Society, which provides information, offers programs to patients, and funds research for cancer treatments and cures.
At the beginning of the event, survivors will be treated to a complimentary dinner in which they will be served by medical professionals from the Cartersville Medical Center and Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers P.C. From 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 7, the meal will be catered by Angelo’s New York Style Pizza & Bistro and consist of salad, pasta, bread, dessert and a drink.
While the survivors’ meals are free, they can bring a guest to dine with them for $10.
“It is an honor and a privilege to provide dinner for the cancer survivors and guests at Bartow Relay for Life," said Ginger Tyra, director of marketing and public relations for the Cartersville Medical Center. "As healthcare providers, we provide care and form special bonds with our patients.
“On a personal note, my mother is a breast cancer survivor, so I’ve been on both sides and understand the emotional as well as the physical impact [that] cancer has on patients and their caregivers. Relay for Life is such a wonderful way to celebrate and honor these amazing individuals. Cartersville Medical Center and Northwest Georgia Oncology Center are proud to sponsor the Survivor Dinner each year.”
In addition to the dinner, local organizers also are recruiting individuals to participate in the Survivors’ Lap Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. As with the dinner, the initial lap is open to people who are cancer-free, and residents who recently have been diagnosed, are going through treatment or are in remission.
Cancer survivors are encouraged to pre-register for the dinner by visiting www.bartowrelayforlife.org. Participants also can sign up for the dinner and Survivors’ Lap Sept. 7 at 5 p.m. In addition to the local Relay for Life’s website, people can contact Gretchen Barkley — American Cancer Society’s northwest senior community manager — at 770-429-1624 for more information.