Are you ready to Relay?

Published 9:04 am Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It seems almost like yesterday.

There we stood, among hundreds of people, awaiting the start of the 1994 Bertie County Relay for Life. The football field at Bertie High School was buzzing with action. Tents were being erected with Army-like precision. Children were running and playing in the wide open spaces. The air was filled with the smell of hamburgers, hot dogs and the like, all grilled over a charcoal flame.

Then came the introduction and “first-lap” procession of cancer survivors. My wife, Deborah, was among that group, one year removed from a surgical procedure that undoubtedly saved her life.

I was hooked on Relay for Life from that moment forward. To witness the pure emotion of seeing those survivors stand and feel the shivers up your spine when the luminaries are lit, Relay is an event that everyone should experience.

Even as the years progressed, I still get a “rush” covering a Relay for Life event. My joy was doubled 10 years ago when Hertford County branched off the Bertie event and hosted their own Relay for Life (teaming with Gates County in the process).

The Hertford-Gates Relay for Life is this weekend (April 23-24) at Chowan University in Murfreesboro. It’s a time to memorialize those who have lost their individual battle against cancer. It’s a time to honor those who have met cancer head-on and survived. It’s a time to raise money to find a cure as well as provide information on how we can protect ourselves from this disease through early diagnosis and treatment.

As it has been since the 2005 Relay, the event is a special one for this old reporter. I lost my mom, Blanche Bryant, to cancer on Oct. 11, 2004. Even though Heaven, I guess, is a far-far away place, I’ll get to hold my Mom close this Friday and Saturday. As I circle the track, not as a participant but as a journalist doing his job, she’ll be walking with me. She’ll be fondly remembered when the luminary ceremonies begin at 9 p.m. on Friday. Several bags, each with their solitary candle, will bear her name. That small flicker of light will shine as bright as sun, bathing me with the warmness and the love that burned within my Mom.

Ditto for my sister, Cindy, who continues to battle cancer. She, along with mom, will be among those remembered and honored this weekend.

Cancer touches so many people, affects so many lives. I commend the local efforts of those who organize our Relay for Life events in Hertford, Gates and Bertie counties. Often, those who are leading the way are either cancer survivors or someone who has a personal connection to a victim of this disease.

I beg you to take part in this weekend’s events as well as next month’s Bertie Relay. Reach in your pocket and purchase a hot dog, a slice of cake or a raffle ticket. Those single dollars add up to big bucks, money that fuels the research to find a cure. Perhaps one day in the future that small donation will come back and save your life or someone that you love.

(Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at or 252-332-7207.)