The long and winding road…

by Cristin Parker

Local Relay event revs up with Survivor’s Dinner

Local cancer patients, caregivers of cancer patients and survivors of the disease are invited to take the first of many steps to be logged during this year’s Relay for Life event.

Event organizers are holding the annual survivors’ dinner, “A Night with the Stars.” The dinner will be held 6:30-8 p.m., Tuesday, April 9, at The Legacy, 782 CR 1511 in Gallatin, to celebrate local cancer survivors; those still fighting their battles with the illness; and their caregivers.

RSVP for the dinner by calling (936) 634-2940.

“However, if you are finding out about this late, weren’t sure if you would feel up to coming or were recently diagnosed and weren’t able to RSVP -- please come and join us anyway,” Relay organizer Shelly Lipe said. “We look forward to seeing you.”

Jacksonville resident and colon cancer survivor Mary Tatum pondered attending last year’s dinner and explained why she Relays.

“It’s a fantastic way to keep in shape, and it’s a wonderful way to support our loved ones, friends, neighbors and anyone else who has beaten the disease or may even still be fighting their battles,” she said during the 2018 dinner. “We’ll find a cure one day, soon I hope, and it means a lot to see so many people out supporting the cause. If you’ve never participated in a Relay, you’re missing a great opportunity!”

This year’s guest speaker will be Dr. Sasha Vukelja, M.D., FACP. She has worked at Texas Oncology since 1996 and said she identifies with many of her patients who are survivors of breast cancer, because “I am also a survivor.”

Dr. Vukelja told the audience attending the 16th annual Breast Cancer Conference she sees the role of a doctor or other medical professionals who treat cancer patients as a “coach and a light.”

“My role is to make them realize they have a reserve built in – I’ve learned that patients often don’t realize the reserve they have,” she said during the conference. “Some are statistic makers and some are statistic breakers.”

She also stresses that a physician and a patient must be on the same team during treatment.

“Together we are stronger,” she said.

This year’s annual Relay event is being moved to the courthouse square in downtown Rusk and is set for 4-8 p.m., Saturday, May 4. This year’s Relay for Life theme is Destination: the Cure and teams are encouraged to utilize a transportation theme in their fundraising events.

This year’s event marks 21 years Cherokee County residents have relayed. As of the Cherokeean Herald’s deadline this week, Relay teams have raised $12,871.38. This year’s goal is $100,000. Top teams are the Transformers, contributing $10,010; Kidney Krusaders, having raised $2,110; The Mighty Ducts, with $575; Cherokee County Catastrophes, chipping in $100; and In His Image Ministry, $26.38.

Top participants include Jerrie Frazier, Eliana Borja, Dawn Russell, Regina Brown and Shalynn Swan.

Anyone interested in forming a team to participate in Relay for Life this year can call Eliana Borja, (903) 617-4636, or visit

Businesses, organization and individuals interested in sponsoring this year’s Relay event can contact American Cancer Society-South Region Community Development Director Judy Sheffield, (936) 634-2940 or email

Danya Worchel contributed to this article.