“The biggest thing is not to lose hope and get scared,” Lincolnton resident Ann Herbertson said about battling cancer.
After battling breast cancer more than two decades ago, resulting in a mastectomy, she felt compelled to participate in cancer-supporting events such as Relay for Life.
Balancing with a cane next to her husband while listening to musical entertainment and watching local dance teams and other area leaders and citizens take part in various performances on the event stage on Friday, Herbertson took in all sights and sounds of at this year’s Lincolnton Relay for Life at Lincolnton Middle School.
“As a survivor…I should support this as much as I can,” she said. “There’s so much bad in the world — you hear so much bad news — it’s great to be out here and see so many survivors.”
Mike Ross is one also of those survivors. His life has been nothing short of a miracle after doctors found two malignant tumors in his brain at just 11 years old.
The Lincolnton High School graduate, now 34, knew something wasn’t right after he continued to lose weight, throw up and move about unbalanced.
Ross spent more than two months in the hospital after a highly-skilled medical team at Carolinas Medical Center-Main in Charlotte removed the cancerous growths, he said.
Because unsuccessful rounds of chemotherapy followed the risky surgery, doctors used radiation to treat him, too.
Ross credited his mother as being his biggest support system during his sickness.
“She’s been the strong inspiration in my life,” he said.
To individuals who may be newly diagnosed or struggling through their current cancer fights, Ross encouraged them to seek out fun activities and let loose.
“You can’t go with this (cancer) and be sad,” he said. “Laugh a little bit.”
Wanda Teague, of Belmont, who has participated in the Lincolnton Relay event each year for nearly the last two decades, said nothing makes her more thankful than to wake up and have another day of life.
Her positive perspective stems from her 1994 fight with breast cancer when doctors discovered a lump during a routine mammogram.
Fortunately, following a lumpectomy and radiation treatment, Teague’s body was free of the disease, although she encountered a couple scares in the years that followed and said she continues to fight with other ailments each day, holding tight to her spiritual support.
“Your faith is everything,” she said.
Breast cancer also plagued Linda McGinnis and her daughter Bethany Dancoff Lerch.
In 1995, McGinnis learned the cancer inside her body was rare and aggressive and not the typical type from which so many others in her Lincolnton community had suffered.
She had inflammatory breast cancer and said doctors gave her a 99 percent chance of living only five years with treatment options, but after receiving what were experimental rounds of hi-dose chemotherapy at the time at Duke University Medical Center and a bone marrow transplant that required the use of her own marrow, she soon healed.
McGinnis has since proven doctors wrong by holding tight to the unlikely 1 percent and living nearly a decade-and-a-half longer than first predicted.
However, her daughter Lerch experienced cancer’s touch twice, first with Hodgkins disease in the eighth grade.
She described her diagnosis at age 13 as an event she will never forget.
“I was in shock,” she said.
While it would seem that after she endured chemo and radiation at a stage in life when homework and childhood crushes should have been her biggest concerns, Lerch would have been free from similar future battles, she, like her mother, developed breast cancer in 2010.
However, Lerch’s type was much less invasive.
She’s now in remission and the mother of three small children, noting that she couldn’t have gotten through such difficult years without many helping hands.
“Accept help when it’s offered,” she said. “You rob others of a blessing if you don’t let them help you.”
Lerch and several other fellow survivors celebrated side-by-side Friday by commencing the event with a special lap of their own around the school track, moving to the cheerful claps of hundreds of supportive family and friends celebrating each of their victorious fights thus far.