By Sherrie Norris
If the enthusiasm displayed during the 2019 Watauga County Relay For Life kickoff on Tuesday evening is any indication of success, this year’s main event, celebrating 25 years on June 14, will be one to remember.
Approximately 50 cancer fighters rallied at Deerfield United Methodist Church fellowship hall in Boone at 6 p.m. on March 12 to wrap up last year’s event and officially begin a new Relay For Life fundraising season in Watauga County. Among those present were returning captains and team members, including former event chairs, several of whom have been involved since Relay for Life began.
Current Relay chair Brian Barker welcomed those present, expressed gratitude for their ongoing support of the event and, in turn, offered encouragement and valuable information to each one in their continued efforts.
Barker was joined by Lee Bogle, who as a representative of the American Cancer Society, is now in her second year as regional community manager serving Watauga County. Bogle, who began her service last year “in the middle of Relay season,” said she is looking forward to seeing the local Relay events from beginning to end this year, and anticipates great things for Watauga County.
In reviewing last year’s success, recognition was given to several teams and individuals who raised a total of $63,959.23 in 2018.
Kay Wood, a member of the Metamorphosis team, was named Top Individual Money Raiser with $3,322, followed closely by Kathy Idol (Friends for Life —$3,278.90) Amber Hamby (Bethel Believers — $2,045,) Mary Ruble (Metamorphosis —$1,685), Libby Ragan (Lights for Louise-$1,678) Brian Barker (FBC Crusaders – $1,593.90), Brenda Bodenhamer (Metamorphosis, $1,561), Mike Sweeting (FBC Crusaders — $1,320.51), Ken Murray (Deerfield Dream Team — $1,310.14) and Trish Miller (Boone Drug Crusaders —$1,214.92)
The top three teams recognized included Deerfield Dream Team, which with 26 members, raised $10,943.15; Metamorphosis, with 11 members and $9,001, and FBC Crusaders, 12 members raising $8,655.60.
The local fundraising goal for 2019 has been set at $70,000.
Barker reminded those present that Relay for Life was started in Watauga County in 1995 by Sue Tilson, and has raised more than $4.5 million as part of the American Cancer Society’s signature event to help find a cure for cancer.
Local Physician as Cancer Patient: “We all have a story to tell”
The highlight of the evening was the appearance and heartfelt speech of special guest and local surgeon Anne-Corinne Beaver. Dr. Beaver shared a brief overview of how her role as physician took a surprising turn to that of cancer patient/survivor in the last year.
Beaver, who has been with Watauga Surgical Group in Boone since 2008, is a well-loved and highly respected physician and general surgeon. Known for her expertise, and especially as a breast cancer surgeon, it was, perhaps, an irony that she detected her own cancer. After discovering “something subtle in my breast” she described, she performed an ultrasound on herself early one morning. “It all but confirmed my suspicion of breast cancer,” she said.
With colleagues at her side every step of the way from that moment forward, Beaver’s plan of care was quickly established, including surgery and subsequent treatment, most of which was done in Watauga Medical Center and at the Seby B. Jones Cancer Center.
For that, and all the community support she received, Beaver said with visible emotion on Tuesday, that she was blessed through her experience. She mentioned how the prayers of this community had helped carry her through her journey, and how her faith in God was strengthened by it all. She cited the local health care professionals, the state-of-the art facilities and expertise therein as extremely instrumental in her successful treatment and recovery.
Beaver spoke of her participation in Relay for Life last year, “not only as a physician, but also as a patient,” and how “very humbling” she found the experience to be. “I have always wanted to be there for my patients, and to support them and the cause,” she said
At the time, however, she was in the midst of her own treatment and admitted she “hardly felt like a cancer survivor at that point.”
Beaver shared with her audience on Tuesday the importance of self-exams and mammograms, even though her cancer, a rare form, had not shown up on a mammogram. She pointed out, too, the importance of other preventative measures, such as colonoscopies, which, she shared, was now recommended for those age 45 and above.
Saying that “even the healthiest of us can still get cancer,” Beaver stressed three ways we can implement to help fight cancer:
- Preventive measures, which include eating well, exercising, getting adequate sleep and routine screening;
- Targeted therapy, which she explained in detail, to include modern technology/medical interventions currently available that use genetic and other related personal information to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.
- Harnessing/using our own immune system to fight cancer.
“We have come a long way with research and how we can use our own genes to make a difference,” Beaver said.
In conclusion, Beaver said, “We all have a story to tell. My journey has deepened my faith and I’ve been able to let go of some of the control in my life. I can now walk down this path with empathy for my patients, as a cancer survivor. I can now say, ‘I know. I’ve been there.’ I hope that I can be faithful to use this experience, this platform, to advocate for patients in their fight.”
Beaver told her audience, “I hope you feel strengthened in your dedication to Relay for Life. It really is inspirational to be here, to be part of this event that draws us closer together to support each other. May you be filled with love as you embark upon the 2019 Relay for Life.”
According to an earlier press release from Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, Beaver, daughter of an orthopedic surgeon, knew at an early age that she wanted to become a physician.
From her early days as a medical missionary — serving in Zambia while still a high school senior, to her college, medical school, residency and working at Mountain Home VA Healthcare System in Johnson City, Tenn., prior to coming to Boone — she never lost sight of what she considers “a calling.”
In recent years, as her colleagues and patients can testify, her desire to serve others has only intensified.
For more than a decade, Dr. Beaver has served as the Cancer Liaison Physician to the American College of Surgeons – Commission on Cancer for Approved Cancer Programs. She also serves on the Breast Center of Excellence Committee, Cancer Committee, Oncology Service Line Committee, Surgical Services Committee, and the Executive Committee of Watauga Medical Center. She was chair of the Surgery Department at Watauga Medical Center 2013-2014. She is also certified in Breast Ultrasound by the American Society of Breast Surgeons.
She is committed to working in unison with oncologists and radiation oncologists to ensure her cancer patients receive a personally designed treatment and follow-up plan.
Remembering and Moving Forward
The kickoff ended with a few moments of reflection during which a large number of former Relay team members and leaders were fondly remembered for their valiant fight against cancer. A glow stick illuminated the darkened room as each name was called as a stark reminder of why the event continues to be necessary.
Bogle, as well, shared a poem called “Candle in the Window,” which has become familiar to many in the Relay for Life circle.
Team captain meetings are scheduled to be held at the Deerfield Church in coming weeks, in preparation for the June 14 Relay for Life, which will be held again at Watauga High School, from 6 p.m. to midnight.
For more information about the 2019 Watauga County Relay For Life, visit relayforlife.org/watauganc.