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    The C word. Cancer. It is an ugly, scary word; a thief in the night coming to steal vitality and ruin lives. The statistics are heart breaking. According to the American Cancer Society, about 565,650 Americans are expected to die of cancer this year. That is more than 1,500 people a day. Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S., exceeded only by heart disease. In the U.S., cancer accounts for one of every four deaths. How can an enemy like that be overcome?
    Well, the American Cancer Society is all over that one. Their numbers show that the five-year relative survival rate for all cancers diagnosed between 1996 and 2003 is 66 percent, up from 50 percent in 1975-1977. The improvement in survival reflects progress in diagnosing certain cancers at an earlier stage and improvements in treatment.
    Finding the funding to support the research and development is no easy task, not to mention all the programs that support and inform those in the midst of their battle with cancer. That is where Dineen Morton comes in. A cancer survivor herself, Morton exudes energy and enthusiasm. Everything from her bright yellow car to her vivacious smile smacks of life and victory — a worthy opponent for such a tough disease if there ever was one. These days, Morton is putting that energy into the American Cancer Society’s fund-raiser, Relay for Life. She has been doing it for the past six years.
    “I got involved with Relay because I was working with a hospice company, and I became a team captain through our company; but because I am a survivor is really … that’s what got my heart in it and I lost my mom to cancer,” said Morton. “Because I was excited as a captain … I was recruited to be a vice chair for relay and the next year they asked me to be the chair of the event. I have been involved in running the event for four years now.”
    This year’s theme is celebrating, remembering and fighting back.  
    “And really that is what it has been because every year that I am cancer-free is a celebration and I am fighting back because we want to eradicate cancer,” said Morton. “I don’t want anybody in my family or anybody that I know to be touched by cancer. What I focus on every day is how important it is for us to educate and how important it is for us to do everything we can to earn as much as we can. The money that we raise allows for research — it allows for programs (to fight cancer).”  
    Save the date, it starts at 6 p.m. on June 6 and goes through 2 p.m. on June 7.
    This year, Morton plans to raise $100,000.
    “We raised $78,000 last year,” she said, emphasizing that,“This money stays in our community. There is not a place you can go, not the hospital, not the cancer center, anywhere that you don’t see literature from the American Cancer Society and we pay for that through Relay for Life.” 
    There are also several programs that the hospital has adopted that utilizes American Cancer Society trained volunteers.
    “Those are American Cancer Society volunteers that provide the services to the cancer center. Such as the Look Good Feel Good program, Reach to Recovery, Road to Recovery, Man to Man, there are several of them and we could actually have every one of them implemented in Cumberland County if we could just get the volunteers to do it,” noted Morton, explaining the Look Good program provides wigs for individuals who have lost their hair from treatment. “We provide wigs, make-up, and makeovers for cancer survivors through the American Cancer Society. There are stop smoking programs, there are many things that could be implemented in the school systems, all free through the American Cancer Society. 
    Morton and the rest of the planning committee have quite a party planned. 
    “Just imagine an all-night carnival where there are vendors set up; I say vendors, but they are actually teams. Each team is selling something, whether it is food, scarves, raffles, silent auctions ... We had a team that did nothing but stuff for children — face painting all of these kinds of things that are going on and the people come to the tent and they purchase,” said Morton.
    There are 58 teams, but Morton says it’s not too late to sign up. 
    While the carnival is going on the track will be busy too.
    “The reason they say Relay is that cancer never stops, so we walk all night for cancer. There is somebody on the track from your team at all times is the idea,” said Morton. “Some people camp out all night while some people may just show up when it is their time to walk. All night long there will be entertainment. I think right now we have more than 30 acts that will be performing.” 
    {mosimage}The event kicks off at 6 p.m. with the survivors lap, followed by the caregivers lap. Everyone else can join in after that.
    “At 9 p.m. we have the luminary ceremony, which is the most awesome part of the event,” said Morton.
    The luminaries are to honor cancer survivors and are also in memory of those who lost their battle. Anyone can purchase a luminary either to honor somebody who lost their life or someone who is surviving. They cost $10 each and have the person’s name on it.
    “At 9 when it gets dark, the lights go out; there is total silence and we pay tribute to those people and it is lit up and it is the most moving part of the event without question; to see all these bags lit for either survivors or someone who lost their life is just so powerful,” said Morton. 
    At 10 a.m., Saturday morning, there will be a kids’ relay, along with games and other activities.
    “We are going to have games to play and different kinds of events for them,” said Morton. “We will have clowns and other things out there and we’ve got a lot of the mascots coming, I think we’ve already secured the FireAntz mascot.”
    Contact Dineen Morton at 778-9107 to purchase a luminary. Go online and register at www.relayfay.com or just show up at Methodist University’s Monarch Field. Walk a lap, have some food, buy a T-shirt, support the cause and have great time doing it. It is free and open to the public. 

Contact Stephanie Crider at [email protected] 

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