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Celebrating cancer survivors and a community of supporters

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Bingo was a major hit as Dot Abrams and her team of cheerleaders worked under the big tent calling numbers and recognizing winners. There was also a photo booth for celebrating and other games with prizes. Pat Nanney Photo.

One by one cancer survivors in Rutherford County walked into the Pavilion on Park Square (POPS) in Forest City on October 20, for a time of celebration. Some were accompanied by spouses, siblings, cousins and friends. A few arrived using walking canes while others arrived arm-in-arm with supporters, many expressing joy and pride to be a part of the evening of celebration in their honor.

The Celebrating Our All-Stars was hosted by the Community Health Council of Rutherford County with funding from RHI Legacy Foundation and the former Rutherford Hospital Foundation.

As the nearly 350 people arrived at POPS they walked between rows of smiling cheerleaders from Chase and Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy, who were offering delightful words to the survivors and guests.

Jill Miracle, of the Community Health Council and from RHI Legacy Foundation, personally thanked everyone for attending the celebration and reminded survivors, families and friends to continue to look forward to the future.

"We are so glad to celebrate the survivorship of so many," she said.

Cousins celebrated cousins, daughters honored their dads and there were sons with moms and siblings sharing the evening of celebration.

Several shared celebratory stories.

Opal McGill of Danieltown talked about her colon cancer diagnosis on Valentine's Day 2022. She had 21 polyps removed and said thankful they were all non-cancerous. Nelda Melton of Sandy Mush and a long time friend of Opal joined the celebration crowd.

"They have gone to a lot of trouble, and a lot of work went into getting this all organized," Nelda said of the Celebrating our All-Stars.

Jean Allen shared a table with friend Ann Smith, both breast cancer survivors.

Jennifer Crawley said she's fortunate to be a survivor of uterine cancer. After dealing with a lot of challenges, she said, "now we have some time to celebrate." She also said she's thankful to have people who were there for her during her toughest days. Some were with her to celebrate.

James Fincannon, a 10-year-cancer survivor moved back to Rutherford County after being in Hickory for several years.

"I'm glad to be back," he said, "and grateful to be a cancer survivor."

Three years ago Myra Irvin was diagnosed with gastric cancer and after two rounds of chemotherapy treatments and three major surgeries, she's also grateful to be a survivor.

Dale Dobbins, a 14-year-breast cancer survivor, said, "it's just good to be anywhere" thanking the community for an evening of celebration.

Kristina Towery shared a table with her dad, cancer survivor Lynn Grant.

As the evening began, Dr. Jeff Pate from Adaville Baptist Church, led the group in prayer.

Also recognized for their financial assistance for cancer patients were Rutherford County Senior Center, employees and families from Westrock, and the Glenn and Lucy Daniel Foundation.

Over 30 volunteers from area health care providers and community members helped plan the evening. Cherry Mountain Farm and General Store provided raffle and game prizes.

The celebration was the first since the 2019 survivor's celebration. Many survivors who participated in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life in the past were also present and recalled those days.

Miracle said the community had to take a two-year break for events during the worst of Covid, but were especially glad to be back in the celebration business.

"There are over 5,000 people living in our county who have experienced a cancer diagnosis. That speaks well of current treatment and recovery options available to patients. It also reflects the tenacity of those who are walking that path now, or who have experienced a cancer journey at some point in their lives," Miracle said.

"Cheering for our All-Stars" was offered by the Cancer Services committee of the Community Health Council of Rutherford County, along with 15 other community members who have joined the planning sessions to make the event special. The group includes representatives from Blue Ridge Health, the Rutherford County Health Department, Levine Cancer Institute, Atrium Health, Rutherford Regional Health System, RHI Legacy Foundation, cancer survivors, and other community members.

Westrock and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service offered sponsorships and were involved in the planning of the celebration.

The Cancer Services Committee of the Community Health Council meets monthly to facilitate cancer patient financial assistance, prevention and education offerings, and survivorship programs. Funding for Cancer Services for Rutherford County is provided through RHI Legacy Foundation and former donations made for cancer programs.

Call 828-202-4630 for more information.

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