While Lincoln Countyâ€™s Relay for Life wonâ€™t kick off its 2006 campaign until Tuesday, itâ€™s already $1,000 closer to its $206,000 goal.
That first $1,000 was earned by Jody Rhyne, a Lincolnton man who lost his mother, Patricia Rhyne, to cancer this summer.
Jody and his brother Chris both work for Rhyne Financial in Lincolnton, which is an associate of Mass Mutual Financial Group. That group offered $1,000 donations to local chapters of the American Cancer Society for any associate willing to give a seminar.
â€œI jumped all over that,â€ Jody said.
The seminar took place in October â€” breast cancer awareness month. Jody met with a cancer support group and discussed financial strategies and his personal experience with his mother.
â€œShe did so well and had such a positive attitude, and sheâ€™s always had such strong faith,â€ Jody said. â€œHer positive attitude affected us.â€
Patricia was well-known throughout the community â€” she taught school for 28 years and was named Lincoln County Teacher of the Year and District Teacher of the Year. She was also actively involved in church and community groups.
â€œNo woman in the world had as many best friends as she did,â€ said Jody. â€œShe had connections everywhere.â€
Although the Rhyne family had always been active in Relay for Life through church, Rhyne Financial formed its own team following Patriciaâ€™s diagnosis in January 2004.
â€œObviously when something hits home, you get more involved,â€ Jody said.
In 2004 and 2005, Rhyne Financial raised a combined total of $9,000. Both years they dedicated their team to Patricia, who walked in the survivorsâ€™ lap.
â€œShe was winning so far in the battle,â€ said Chris.
Patriciaâ€™s first diagnosis had been stage 4 breast cancer. Less than a month later, doctors found lesions in her brain. Still later, cancer was discovered on her back and in her spine.
She had many successes â€” the seven lesions in her brain were cured with radiation and a mastectomy helped combat the cancer further. Even so, the disease persisted.
â€œThis cancer she had was so aggressive that in one monthâ€™s time it could spread again, and it did,â€ said Jody.
Throughout her illness, doctors gave the Rhyne family grim news. Despite this, they kept a positive attitude. Patriciaâ€™s mother and two sisters had all battled breast cancer and survived.
â€œI think we still thought we could beat this thing,â€ said Jody. â€œMiracles happen every day.â€
The spring before Patricia died, the entire Rhyne family went on a trip to the mountains. Patricia and her husband, Rusty, enjoyed quality time with their three sons â€” Chris, Jody and David, who is a pediatrician in Greenville â€” and their daughters-in-law and grandchildren.
They swam, played tennis, hiked and made crafts. Throughout the week-long trip, hundreds of pictures were taken.
One night, Jody found his mother up at 2 a.m. writing feverishly. He later discovered she had composed detailed scrapbooks with captions beneath every picture so the family could remember their trip.
By August, Patricia had been taken into Hospice care. The Wednesday before she died, a group of more than 50 friends gathered together on her porch and sang for her.
â€œShe had not spoken in 24 hours, and she sat up in bed and yelled back at them,â€ said Jody. â€œIt was amazing.â€
In the wake of her death, her family was left feeling numb.
â€œShe didnâ€™t have any enemies,â€ said Jody. â€œShe gave her love so unconditionally that when she walked in a room, you couldnâ€™t help but be happy.â€
Jody will present his $1,000 check to Lincoln Countyâ€™s Relay for Life Tuesday at the kickoff ceremony.
That check brings Lincoln County one step closer to its $206,000 goal, which is $6,000 more than last year.
â€œEvery year has been more successful than the year before,â€ said Susan Beaver, team recruitment chairwoman.
In fact, Lincoln County has been honored as one of the top 10 fund-raising counties in the nation per capita.
Beaver doesnâ€™t see why this year should be any different.
â€œI think Lincoln County is just full of so many good people, and theyâ€™re just gracious with their money,â€ she said.
Want to go? This yearâ€™s Relay for Life Kickoff will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church in Lincolnton. Teams and cancer survivors are welcome. To form a Relay for Life team call Susan Beaver at (704) 735-1483. For more information on Relay for Life call (704) 735-4936.
by Sarah Grano