When Billy Jenkins was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2007, his surgeon told him to be grateful it wasn’t 1977.
“In ’77, we probably would have sent you home to die,” the doctor told him.
Jenkins, 63, had surgery in 2007, followed by six months of chemotherapy. He has been cancer free since.
And participates in the annual Western York County Relay for Life because he knows it makes a difference.
“Before my cancer, we did it because we thought it was a good community project,” said Jenkins, a member of the York Shag Club and Friends team.
After cancer, he said, it was different.
“It became personal then,” Jenkins said about his involvement with the American Cancer Society fundraiser, which had begun in 2001. “I thought, maybe if I can help with this project, raise a few dollars, we can save someone else’s life. And hopefully that’s what we’re doing.”
Relay for Life teams will put their feet to the pavement again this year as they walk to raise money for cancer research. The event will be from 1 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday on the track at York Middle School.
Among the participants are dozens of survivors who will share their stories, including York resident Ann Connolly, 68, who had thyroid cancer at 23, followed by cervical cancer a year later.
“It’s a very hard thing to do because it’s really a shock,” she said about her cancer diagnosis. Connolly, who had two children when she was diagnosed, wondered if she would see them grow up. She had surgery to remove her thyroid, followed by a hysterectomy for her cervical cancer.
She likens the annual fundraiser to another annual celebration.
“It’s a great birthday party. It’s a birthday party because we’re here one more year, all the survivors and caregivers that help, and it’s just a wonderful thing,” she said.
Participants raised about $140,000 last year and aim to raise at least as much this year.
One team, the Stars of Hope from First Baptist Church in York, raised money by creating a quilt made from Relay T-shirts. Piedmont Medical Center acquired the quilt to display in its oncology unit, with a donation to Relay, said member Lynda Crisp, who came up with the idea.
Team member Beth Jackson put the quilt together ofT-shirts donated by the Circle of Hope team.
Piedmont spokesman Amy Faulkenberry said the hospital hopes the quilt display helps cancer patients “see that they’re not alone in the fight.”
Members also have sold cookbooks to raise money. Sue Clinton, a member of the First Baptist of York team, has sold about 180 of the $15 cookbooks. She also has sold sponsor sites and luminaries.
Clinton said 10 members of her family have had cancer, including her mother, and only one relative has survived. “I would do just about anything to raise a dollar for cancer,” said Clinton, who lives in Clover.
“I wish everybody would come out and support Relay,” she said. “They just don’t realize how important Relay is. Cancer has touched so many people in your family, friends. You need to come and see what Relay is really about.”