Relay For Life kicks of 2013 effort toward more birthdays

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Sisters Caroline and Collier Williams were all decked out in purple for the 2013 Braselton-Hoschton Relay For Life kickoff held Nov. 8. The girls will be relaying in memory of their grandfather, Henry Edward Braselton.

Jessica Worley can’t help but cry when she recalls her cancer journey. At the Nov. 8 American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Braselton-Hoschton 2-13 kickoff, Worley shared her inspiring story.

“I want to tell you how blessed I am because I know I’m healed,” said Worley, who is chairing the 2013 Relay For Life of Braselton-Hoschton, with Jennifer Kidd as co-chair.

An abnormal pap smear at age 21 found Worley spending two weeks awaiting to confirm that her doctor’s suspicions about an abnormal cervical growth was cancer. She worried that her dream of being a mom may be snatched away. She said she tried to stay hopeful because she couldn’t accept that she would never have children.

When the results of the biopsy were available, Worley learned that her cancer had been caught in the early stages.

“I am a blessed girl,” said Worley, who acknowledged how the support and shoulder to cry on of her mother, Jan Worley, who was in the audience, had been her strength.

Her surgeon asked her if she believed in him or in a higher power. A woman of faith, Worley said she knew a higher power had sent this man to heal her. And he did. With prayers and high hopes, Worley’s surgery revealed that the cancer was not invasive and she is celebrating her fourth birthday in February.

The birthday theme was evident at the kickoff with tables featuring different party decorations.

Kellie Scott provided the welcome and introduced the two chairwomen for the third annual Relay For Life of Braselton-Hoschton. She described Worley and Kidd as amazing.

The top teams were 2012 were rec

ognized, and Scott said there was a lot to be proud of even though the 2012 numbers were just shy of the fundraising goal with $58,402.37 being raised. The top five teams were Hometown Community Bank, $7,467.67; Center United Methodist Church, $6,435; Spring For Life, $5,287; Faithful Fighters, $4,790.75; and Gum Springs Elementary School, $3,862.70. Bob Kindelberger was the top individual fundraiser with $3,005.

Why do we do this, asked Scott: For the survivors. She presented gifts to the survivors including 35-year survivor Gail Banks. Scott will reach the 10-year mark as a survivor in January.

She then recognized the caregivers with a gift before introducing two very special people.

Piedmont Judicial Circuit District Attorney Brad Smith and Jacob, his 8-year-old son, were special guests. The Smiths also have a 10-year-old son, Aiden.

When Jacob was 13 months old, he began crying at night which was unusual and then Christine Smith found a lump in the baby’s pelvis while changing his diaper. At St. Mary’s Hospital, the family learned Jacob had a mass the size of a large orange in his small body. The tumor was meshed around his organ and his kidneys were ready to shut down.

It was necessary to shrink the tumor before surgery, Smith said, and the family hoped the tumor was cancer so that it would respond to the treatment. The mass was removed but it returned in January and was removed. Chemotherapy was given but the tumor returned a third time in March. Accutane was given to turn the cancer cells back into normal cells and for 18 months, the Smiths were at the hospital for Jacob’s chemotherapy and back and forth to the emergency room and hospitalized almost weekly. The Smiths both had full-time jobs so they were tagging-teaming with Jacob at the hospital.

“We would have one-hour dates at the hospital as we were trying to keep a normal life for our other son,” said Smith.

Over the course of 12 months, Jacob underwent 10 surgeries and he’ll never be an underwear model with the scars he carries. But there is much to celebrate. Jacob will have been off treatment for six years in January. The family celebrated year five with a celebration.

“Now it’s time to give back to everybody else,” said Smith, of sharing Jacob’s story through the AFLAC Children’s Center and Relay For Life.

Also an honorary chair for Relay For Life is Martha Martin, who credits woman’s intuition for the early detection of her cancer. She had a boil on her hand the size of a BB but he was sore so her doctor ordered an x-ray. While at the hospital, she said she thought she should have a mammogram. Although a nurse told her she wasn’t due for a mammogram for another six months and likely her insurance wouldn’t cover the cost, a call to her doctor was made and the mammogram was done.

She was told to call the doctor the following day and she thought it was able the spot on her hand. It wasn’t: there was a spot found on that mammogram. Two weeks later, the spot on her hand had totaled disappeared but the spot in her breast had not. The doctor suspected a calcium deposit but it was cancer, requiring radiation.

Her sister was not so lucky. Her physician failed to look at the reports of her mammogram so her breast cancer spread and she died of lung cancer in 2005.

Scott said she relays for the friend who lost her battle with ovarian cancer in a short seven months, for the friend who is an 11-year breast cancer survivor and for her own son who has the predisposition for the same type of cancer she had. Working to accomplish what can be done for those fighting the battle everyday is why she relays.

Scott asked those present to write down why they relay on a card and pin it to a cupcake which will be used during the Relay For Life fundraising.

Also sharing the stories of how cancer has touched her life was Kelli Wehunt, who is in the book, Angels and Monsters, which gave her an opportunity to share her story. It gave her the ability to heal. The book raises money to help fund early detection.

The goal for 2013 is to have teams committed to staying all night to earn special T-shirts. The all-night event with a birthday theme has added meaning this year as the founder of Relay, Gordy Klatt is now battling cancer himself. Relay For Life is the largest not-for-profit event in the world.

Relay For Life 2013 kickoff

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Caroline and Collier Williams enjoyed fun activities before the start of the Relay For Life kickoff. They joined Jennifer Kidd at the event. The girls are relaying in memory of their grandfather, Henry Edward Braselton.
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The cupcake carried out the birthday theme and also provided a board for posting "Why I Relay" cards.
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Gail Banks shows she is a cancer survivor of 35 years when she carries this purse.
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Pizza and salad were enjoyed at the start of the kickoff.
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Jacob Smith is an honorary co-chairman of the 2013 Braselton-Hoschton Relay For Life.
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Jessica Worley calls herself a blessed girl as a cancer survivor.
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Jennifer Kidd, who is co-chairing the 2013 Relay with Jessica Worley, was joined by two of the Williams girls, who recently welcomed a new sister to their family.
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Jennifer Kidd is serving as co-chair of Relay For Life.
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A game of musical chairs lightened the mood of the kickoff.
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Jessica Worley is chairing the 2013 Relay For Life.
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Caregivers were presented with a gift.
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Brad Smith shared how he and wife Christine tag-teamed when Jacob was undergoing treatments. They tried to keep life normal for Jacob's older brother Aiden.
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Martha Martin is another honorary chair for the 2013 Relay For Life.
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Martha Martin shared how a small but painful bump on her hand got her to seek medical attention. While getting an x-ray at the hospital, she decided to get a mammogram. While the spot on her hand faded two weeks later, the mammogram showed a spot which was cancer that could be treated thanks to early detection.
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Martha Martin, a cancer survivor, lost a sister to cancer.
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Even the children posted a card explaining why they relay.
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The cards summed up the reasons why volunteers are committed to fighting cancer so that more birthdays can be enjoyed.
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Kelli Wehunt was introduced by Kellie Scott of the American Cancer Society.
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Kelli Wehunt, who is ifeatured n the book, Angels and Monsters, shared about her journey to canquer cancer. The book gave her an opportunity to share her story. The book raises money to help fund early detection.
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Door prizes were also awarded.
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Caroline and Collier Williams with Jennifer Kidd.
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There was a birthday party feel to the evening.
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Birthday party decor served as table centerpieces.
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Crystal Weise and Kellie Scott, above left, show off the "Why I Relay" cupcake which showcases why volunteers participate in Relay For Life.