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Survivors relay faith in fighting
Event benefits cancer research
Many cancer survivors were in attendance as the American Cancer Society kicked off its 2011 Relay for Life campaign at Sawnee Elementary School. The relay is scheduled for May 13 at the Cumming Fairgrounds. - photo by Autumn McBride

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Debra McCormick’s bright smile and rosy complexion hide any trace of the life-threatening disease she beat four years ago.

But like many others who came Tuesday night to kick off the American Cancer Society’s 2011 Relay for Life at Sawnee Elementary School, McCormick is a survivor.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, McCormick said this is her fourth year participating in Relay for Life.

“I have relayed because I am a survivor and I believe in what the American Cancer Society is doing,” said McCormick, adding that her mother is a one-year breast cancer survivor.

She said participating in the fundraiser has given her a chance to meet new people and talk with others who share her struggle.

“It is a real camaraderie,” she said. “It’s a wonderful place to be and it’s a lot of fun.”

The relay is scheduled for May 13 at the Cumming Fairgrounds.

The program’s theme this year is “Band Together to Save Lives.” Tuesday night's event included live music by local band On Seven.

Steve Barnes, this year’s honorary chairman, coaches basketball and teaches biology at Forsyth Central High School. He shared his story of cancer survival.

Barnes read from a journal he kept of his experiences after he was diagnosed in summer 2008.

“Today marks a day I’ll never forget. I had a CAT scan and ultrasound. I have cancer,” he read. “Testicular cancer. The words were not unexpected, but devastating nonetheless.

"The next few days, weeks will be filled with questions, tests, decisions, options, uncertainty. I’m facing a giant.”

Barnes compared his struggle with the biblical story of David and Goliath, saying he relied on his faith to help him fight the disease.

Barnes said according to American Cancer Society statistics, 516,490 Americans in 2010 were expected to die of cancer, 1,500 Americans die of the disease each day and 3,400 are diagnosed daily.

He cited a list of cancer’s limitations from a Mayo Clinic bulletin board.

“It cannot cripple love, it can’t shatter hope, it can’t erode faith,” he said. “It can’t eat away peace ... it can’t quench the spirit, it can not lessen the power of the Resurrection.”

Lynn Jackson, administrator of Northside Hospital-Forsyth, also addressed the crowd.

Jackson said the facility has been chosen this year to join the National Cancer Institute’s Community Cancer Centers Program. It was the only hospital from the Southeast in 2010 picked to participate.

“We’ve been leading the way in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer over the last several years,” Jackson said. “This recognition just comes to bring those programs together.”

Jackson said the hospital is proud of its commitment in redefining cancer care.