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Relay for Life raises more than $200,000

MORRISONVILLE The response was overwhelming as the community turned out by the hundreds to support an event to benefit the American Cancer Society. Traffic was backed up more than a mile on State Route 22B as people made their way to Clinton County Fairgrounds last Friday for the annual Relay for Life walk. The overnight event saw more than 1,500 participants raise in excess of $200,000, far surpassing the $150,000 goal set for this years walk. Its just unbelievable, event co-chairperson Mark Brown Jr. said of the turnout. As Brown and others involved with the event addressed the crowd, cars were still pouring into the fairgrounds, filled with people who were there to help Relay for Lifes mission to celebrate, remember and fight back. Two-hundred eighty-three men, women and children took to the track to walk the survivors lap, a special lap to kick off the walk for those who have survived their battles with cancer. The number grew by more than 30 people from last years walk. Among the survivors draped in purple the official color of Relay for Life was this years featured cancer survivor speaker, Bonnie Berry, a retired educator and active cancer awareness advocate. Berry was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, when doctors found a lump on her left breast during her annual mammogram. Initially, the lump was not believed to be cancerous, but, after further testing, the opposite turned out to be true. Through follow-up appointments, conducting her own research and turning to friends and family for support, Berry was able to get through it. Things went wonderful and thanks to the Fitzpatrick Cancer Center the doctors, the staff and Elli Collins [an oncology clinical nurse specialist], I have to say, it was a fairly easy ride, she said. Through her rounds of radiation and chemotherapy to eradicate the disease, Berry was determined to keep a positive attitude. I thought, maybe, Id lost some weight. Well, no, recalled Berry. The anti-nausea drugs kept me so hungry, I gained 40 pounds. I would go and get a tray of Dunkin Donuts cookies and sit there and just eat those cookies. I got to pregnancy weight with no child to show after chemo, she said, laughing. Berry finished her treatments in February 1995 and began her road to being cancer-free. That road has led her to be active in offering support to others with cancer, through the Reach to Recovery and Treasure Chests cancer support groups at CVPH Medical Center and in other events such as Relay for Life, the Susan G. Komen Foundation Race for the Cure and one of Berrys favorite pastimes, performing with The Boobie Sisters, a comedy troupe composed of breast cancer survivors. Cancer has led me down many paths I never would have had the opportunity of traveling before, Berry said. It has become the gift of life and living. It does change your whole world. The journey Berry has taken since overcoming cancer has also emphasized the importance of knowing whats important, she said. She summarized her feelings of what cancer taught her by reading an excerpt from the book "Suzanne's Diary to Nicholas," by James Patterson. Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls the balls are called work, family, health, friends and integrity, she said. Youre keeping them all in the air, but one day, you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, itll bounce back. The other four balls family, health, friends and integrity are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be scuffed, it will be nicked, and perhaps even shatter. Those four values are something Berry considers instrumental in her being here today. When all else fails, motivation can also be found in the fact the word cancer cant be spelled without the word can, she said. Remember, life is a journey, said Berry. Youll have some detours and routes that will take you to unexpected places, but you have to celebrate, remember and fight back. Those who were unable to participate in the event but would still like to make a contribution to the American Cancer Society, may donate on-line at www.events.cancer.org/rflplattsburghny or by contacting Joan Brown at 297-7787, or event co-chairs Mark Brown or Kim Fulton at 314-1404 or 593-7327, respectively.

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