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Local Relay teams hold kick-off

What if the American Cancer Society didn’t exist?
What if there wasn’t an organization to help those who are suffering through the effects of being diagnosed with cancer – losing their hair, being sick from chemo treatments, getting a terminal diagnosis, fighting for their life every single day?
Those who attended the Franklin County Relay For Life kick-off event Thursday night found out just how important this organization is after hearing from Sen. Roger Bedford.
In 1989, Bedford, who has served as a state senator for more than 25 years, was gearing up to campaign for the position of attorney general in Alabama when his plans were suddenly put on hold.
After experiencing excruciating pain in his hips and lower back for some time, Bedford finally went to see a doctor who discovered a mass that turned out to be non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a cancerous tumor that had to be treated immediately.
After undergoing chemotherapy for six months, Bedford said he was told he was in complete remission. But in October of 1989, the cancer was back and at an aggressive stage.
He was told that he needed to get his affairs in order because he would be dead by January.
Bedford and his wife, Maudie, immediately started looking into treatment options and found some promising leads in Texas at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
They were told Bedford could undergo a bone marrow transplant – a procedure that was very risky at the time because it was still new and somewhat experimental.
Bedford said he and his wife weighed the options of going forward with the treatment and finally decided it was his best option if he wanted to remove the cancer from his body.
After having the transplant, contracting a serious infection and battling his way back, Bedford finally came out on the other side free of cancer and ready to return back to his wife and then 2-year-old son, Roge.
“If I hadn’t made it through, I would have never been able to teach my son how to hunt or fish. I would have never seen him grow up,” he said.
“I could have never gone on to support legislation supporting cancer patients and procedures that could hopefully prevent and detect cancer before it got out of hand.
“There are so many things I could have never done had that been the end of my journey, but it wasn’t, and I have people like you to thank for that.”
Bedford said he found out that a good portion of the money that funded the research for bone marrow transplants, the procedure that saved his life, had come from the American Cancer Society.
“People like you were raising money even then to fund the life-giving research that allows me to stand here before you today,” Bedford told the crowd.
“I’m a walking testament to what the American Cancer Society can do and the effects it can have on a person’s life. You never know when the next dollar raised is going to be the dollar that funds research that could eliminate the threat of cancer all together.
“I’ve heard a quote before that when you waste your money all you waste is money, but when you waste your time you’ve wasted part of your life. Those of you in this room are making the most of your time to support a worthy cause, and I’m personally very grateful for that.”
Belinda Johnson, chairwoman of the Franklin County Relay For Life Committee, told the crowd, which largely consisted of current Relay team-captains, that she hoped this year could be even better than all the rest.
“We’ve lost some teams this year for different reasons, but I want to make 2013 our challenge year,” she said.
“I want us to be able to recruit more teams and more people who want to be part of the Relay For Life here in Franklin County.
“I know those people are out there – we just have to go out and find them and ask them to help us in the fight against cancer.”
Megan Lovelace, an ACS community representative who works with Franklin County, said those who volunteer with Relay in Franklin County have so much heart and such a passion for what they do and that passion translates into real-life help for local cancer patients.
“Last year in Franklin, Colbert and Lauderdale counties, the American Cancer Society served 489 local individuals with 1,797 patient programs and services,” she said.
“There were 58 local patients who received wigs; 90 women were able to attend the ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ program where they receive a free make-up kit valued at over $200 and volunteer cosmetologists fit them with a free wig; 26 men were able to attend the ‘Man to Man’ support group for prostate cancer patients and survivors […] and this just scratches the surface.
“I wish you could be in our office for just one day and see the faces of these cancer patients who are able to benefit from our services.
“When they ask us how much they owe us and we tell them absolutely nothing, you can see the relief and the gratitude on their faces, and the work you do raising money through Relay For Life makes that possible.”
Lovelace said it is never too late to sign up to be a new Relay For Life team in Franklin County or to join an existing team.
“We are always looking for new teams, whether it’s a church group, a business, or just a group of neighbors or friends who want to support the Relay For Life,” she said.
“Maybe you’ve thought about being involved with Relay before and just didn’t think you had the time or didn’t know how to get involved. Don’t let another year pass by without getting in on this event.
“There is a place for every single person who wants to participate in Relay For Life. All you have to do is ask.”
This year’s Relay For Life will be Friday, May 3, at the Russellville High School Stadium.
To be a part of this year’s event, contact Lovelace at 256-767-0825.