SHEPHERDSTOWN – “I remember when I received the first word of cancer,” Reba Weller wrote in a letter to organizers of this month’s Relay For Life of Jefferson County. “All I could think of was my family… my world was about caring and helping them. Also, I remember my first prayer: ‘I ask you, Lord, to heal me and make me well, not for me, but for my granddaughter who has no mother and for my aunt who has no family here in the area. They need me and I need you now more than ever.
“Without your help, Lord, on this health problem, I can’t help anyone.”
Weller’s heartfelt words won her the designation of honorary chairman of his year’s Relay, happening June 21 at Charles Town Middle School.
For the 62-year-old Shepherdstown woman, the diagnosis of endometrial cancer came on May 2, 2013.
“I never went to the doctor,” she explains. “I was too busy taking care of others. When I finally went for tests, I got the call from the doctor. I was in shock. My husband Raymond and I were in tears.”
After surgery left her free of the disease, Weller accepted an invitation to become part of the local Relay For Life fundraiser from Cathy Padgett, the captain of the Relay team at Weller’s church, Grace Baptist in Shenandoah Junction. Before that, Weller said her only involvement was to make donations.
It was also Padgett’s idea that Weller write about her experience with cancer and send her thoughts to the county Relay For Life organization.
In her letter, Weller wrote, “Could something else happen again that I’m not prepared for in life? I think, maybe so or even yes. I am thankful though that God is there walking with me. … I dedicate all of my love, understanding and caring to all people who are celebrating more birthdays, remembering the ones who have left us and giving strength to the ones who are fighting the fight now.”
Weller credits the support and prayers of the members of her church with helping her recover. Grace Baptist is the only church with a team at Relay. “I wish more churches would get involved,” she said. “I also wish people suffering with cancer or have loved ones with cancer would seek out churches for help – someone to talk to.”
Relay For Life teams can be large or small, said Linda Hart, who along with her husband, Dan Hart, is one of the event’s promoters. Participants raise money before the big even through yard sales, raffles and all kinds of other projects and then come together for Relay For Life. That event culminates with dozens of supporters making laps around the CTMS football field. The event ends with hundreds of luminaria placed on the field in honor or memory of those who have battled cancer.
The Harts – who wed after losing their first spouses to cancer 15 years ago – say about 300 people have registered for Relay For Life so far. In 2013, the event raised $107,533.
The colorful leadup to Relay For Life known as “Paint the Town Purple” began Friday and runs until June 28. Businesses are asked to decorate their businesses with purple to show their support in the fight against cancer. Linda Hart said fundraising for Relay For Life will continue until Aug. 31.
“I don’t know anyone who has never been touched by cancer,” Weller notes. “We all know someone who has survived the disease, is a caregiver or someone who passed away.”
Relay For Life of Jefferson County, at a glance
Who: Hundreds of your neighbors, including volunteers, walkers, families, caregivers, cancer survivors, schools, companies, individuals and teams.
What: According to event publicist Linda Hart, the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Jefferson County is an overnight celebration where people take turns walking, running or otherwise circling around a track “relay” style to raise funds to fight cancer.
Says Hart: “You don’t need to be a track star to be a winner in this race for life. The idea is to enjoy your time, dance, play games and enjoy the presence of others all while raising money to finish the fight, and provide services to cancer patients and their families.
“One of the many highlights of the event is the luminaria ceremony, or candlelight vigil, held at nightfall to honor cancer survivors, caregivers, and to remember those lost to cancer.
“The American Cancer Society Relay For Life reminds us that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten and that those who face cancer will always be supported, Hart said. More than anything it makes us hopeful that one day, cancer will be eliminated for good. This event is therapy for the mind, spirit and the heart. Since its start in 1985, Relay For Life has spread to more than 6,100 communities in the nation and even has become a worldwide movement, taking place in more than 20 countries.”
Where: Charles Town Middle School, 193 High St.
When: Saturday, June 21 with the Survivor Luncheon at 11 a.m. and the opening ceremony at 1 p.m. The event continues till after midnight.