"I was 37 [when] I was diagnosed July 27, 2001, [with] soft tissue sarcoma in my right thigh," said Hill, who received chemotherapy and radiation treatments to reduce her tumor, which was 10 centimeters by 16 centimeters in size. "[Being diagnosed] was really dramatic. My father had passed away in '98 [from] cancer. So I'd seen what he went through and how hard it was. I was just in awe and shock. I didn't think I would take the treatments because it was so harsh on him and how sick it made him. I was just devastated. You don't know what to do. The word cancer, it's hard to explain. You don't know whether to cry, [but] I cried immediately. You don't know how to tell people because you don't want people feeling sorry for you.
"You want your life to go on as it was but you've got this disease. ... My daughter was starting high school the first day of my chemo treatment. All I could think about was I wanted to live to see her graduate. I thought, 'I'll never be able to see her graduate. I'll never see her get married. I'll never have grandchildren.' All this is going through your mind when you're hearing these words, so I just thank the Lord. I have seen her graduate. I have seen her get married. I have three precious grandchildren. You see life differently. Things still bother me, but I try to live every day to the fullest and enjoy everybody."
For Hill, Relay for Life is an inspiring overnight event in which she can interact with other people who have triumphed over cancer as well as those who are still battling.
"It's just breathtaking," said Hill, adding the survivor and luminary ceremonies are the event's most touching moments. "It's just a blessing to know that you've made that [journey. Some] people [at Relay also] are still fighting. The first few years, I was really still fighting because I had five recurrences. But just knowing you've made it this far and you see these people that's made it [numerous] years, like 20 years, it makes you want to keep the fight going. ... A 'survivor' is not just someone that's been diagnosed with like breast cancer, soft tissue sarcoma, prostate cancer, lung cancer, bone cancer.
"It's also for those that have been diagnosed with skin cancer. They may have not ever had any treatment, but they're still a cancer survivor. So I challenge everyone to come out. From skin cancer survivors to breast cancer to sarcoma to lung, I challenge all of them to come out and experience and see what it truly means to know that you have come this far."
The Relay for Life event scheduled for Sept. 9 and 10 will cap off months of fundraising for volunteer team members. So far, about $115,000 has been generated to assist the American Cancer Society's efforts in preventing and detecting cancer, and ultimately finding a cure for the affliction. One hundred and five groups also have registered for this year's benefit, in which team members will take turns walking around the track at Dellinger Park in Cartersville.
According to ACS data, "Some of the services patients from the community have been able to use from American Cancer Society so far this year [are]:
* Four patients (along with a caregiver) have stayed in our Atlanta Hope Lodge for free housing during their treatment for a total of 223 nights.
* Twenty-four patients have been given a gas card to help with gas costs.
* Five patients have been transported to and from their treatments using our Road to Recovery program for a total of 116 trips.
* Four patients that have been diagnosed with breast cancer have taken part in Reach to Recovery where they can have one-on-one support with another breast cancer survivor that is at least one year beyond treatment.
* Eight patients have received free makeup and instruction on how to overcome the effects of treatment with our Look Good Feel Better program.
* Six patients have called for personalized nutritional help with our oncology dietitians.
* Thirteen patients have utilized our Patient Advocates that help assist with problems, such as loss of income, lack of health insurance, locating community resources and assisting with the emotional impact of the cancer diagnosis."
At the beginning of the Relay for Life event, survivors will be treated to a complimentary dinner outside the track, in which they will be served by medical professionals from The Hope Center, a service of Cartersville Medical Center; North Georgia Radiation Therapy; and Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers P.C. From 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 9, the meal will be catered by Angelo's New York Style Pizza and Bistro.
While the survivors' meals are free, they can bring a guest to dine with them for $10.
"It's an opportunity to celebrate survivorship and honor our patients, and [it is] a time to remember those who succumbed to the disease," said Ginger Tyra, director of marketing and public relations for the Cartersville Medical Center and The Hope Center. "Angelo's New York Style Pizza and Bistro -- they're going to be catering Italian [dishes]. There's going to be a meat dish and a meatless dish for varying tastes. We're also going to have a huge birthday cake for the survivors for dessert because the theme this year is birthdays.
"Gretchen [Barkley, ACS Northwest Georgia Senior Community Manager] told me last week she had about 260 survivors registered, and ... each survivor gets to bring a caregiver. So we planned for 600 last year, combined survivors and caregivers, and I think we probably had about 550 come through. We want them to [take part] and if they haven't pre-registered, then they will be allowed to register on site."
Local organizers also are recruiting individuals to participate in the Survivor Group Lap Sept. 9 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 and lap, by visiting www.bartowrelayforlife.org. Participants also can register for both offerings on site Sept. 9 at 5 p.m. In addition to the local Relay for Life's website, people can contact Barkley at 770-429-0089 for more information. To learn more about ACS' services, call 1-800-227-2345.