Anitra Ingram, herself a cancer survivor, gave an invocation for the event, thanking God "for each day and for those that have survived." She also asked a blessing for the families of those that have not survived.
Following the prayer, the survivors were given information on this year's Relay for Life, which will be held May 1-2 at Anson High School. The survivors will take the first lap of the overnight walk, and will ceremoniously release balloons as they start the event.
Miss Anson County Lillie Templeton made one of her first public appearances since winning her title, saying she was "amazed and blessed to be among so many survivors." She added that she would do whatever she could to help make the Relay a huge success and to help cancer survivors.
Elizabeth Kersey was the keynote speaker of the evening, and shared her story of cancer diagnosis and survival.
Kersey began by stating that in June 2007, she went to her doctor for a routine checkup. During that visit, she found out she was anemic. She admitted that for a while, she put it on the back burner, going about her life as usual. But then, she met with doctors and nurses to undergo several tests, "not knowing they would become my best buddies," and on July 7, 2007, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cell.
"It's usually in people over 50, which I am," she said. "It's common in people of African descent, which I also am."
Kersey said that after her diagnosis, she did research and what jumped out at her the most was that multiple myeloma is an incurable disease. "I sat there in numbness," she recalled. "I cried, I prayed. I was just a ball of emotions. Then, I told myself, 'get over it.'"
She said that she decided to just deal with the disease, put it in God's hands and live her life the best she could. "I told my husband it's just like high blood pressure— there's no cure for that either."
Kersey had to undergo surgery to place a metal rod in her hip to help prevent possible bone breakage, due to the disease. She remembers that she was expected to leave the hospital the Saturday after her operation. "I left the hospital that Friday night with the help of a silver walker," she said, to cheers from the audience. "In three weeks, I was walking with a cane. My kids tease that I can walk faster with that cane than they can with two good legs."
Since her diagnosis and treatment, Kersey said she has changed. "I look at life through a different window— one that is positive. As soon as I got the diagnosis, I gave it to God."
She added that she surrounds herself with positivity and laughs as often as she can. "I try to find the good in every situation," she said. "There are times that I still get a little down but I just don't stay down."
Kersey ended her talk with the following:
U- unique; "We all deal with cancer in our own way," she said.
R- realization; "You have to realize, you'll be dealing with this for the rest of your life."
R- revelation; "When friends and family and others heard of my illness, they asked 'why?'" Kersey said. "I said, 'why not me? God has blessed me so that I can help bless others.'"
After Kersey received a standing ovation, the survivors used paint to add their hand prints to a banner, which will be displayed at the Relay for Life Friday night.