Are you ready to Relay?

Published 8:21 am Tuesday, April 14, 2015

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. That coverage now includes Relay events in Hertford County and Northampton County.

The Hertford-Gates Relay for Life is this weekend (April 17-18) 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, as will my sister, Cindy, who passed away from cancer three years ago, and a most recent victim of the disease – Ashley Harrell, my daughter’s father-in-law. The impact they made on my life and the lives of others they once held close will come flooding back one more time.

The same can be said for hundreds of others taking part in the event. Cancer survivors can share a personal story of triumph; the lives of cancer victims will fondly be remembered by those left behind. All will be moved to tears at around 9 p.m. on Friday when the annual luminary ceremony begins. If you have never attended a Relay event, I encourage you to come out at that time on Friday. If you are able, I encourage you to circle the walkway and let those small flickers of light bathe you in warmness and love.

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, Northampton 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 and Northampton Relay. If nothing else, 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 Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be reached at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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