Every one of hundreds of cancer survivors and supporters who walked miles of laps around the Castle Heights Middle School track Saturday in the annual Relay For Life fundraiser to combat cancer is royalty.
Each person either fought cancer and won, or helped a person fight, and the quarter-mile laps around the Rock Hill track in the eastern York County annual event that turned into miles were filled with the laughter that goes with the absolute joyous thrill of being alive.
But Brittany Hill, 23, was the only princess. She wore a purple tutu, and a sash fit for a princess that said, simply and elegantly: “Survivor.”
“I want more than anything now to help others so that nobody else has to go through what I went through,” Hill said.
Last month, Brittany Hill stood at the funeral for Emily Elkins, the Rock Hill teen who died at age 16 after almost four years battling cancer and inspiring the world with her generosity, and vowed to do even more.
“Emily inspired me and she told me I inspired her, and I owe it to her to help people,” Hill said.
She is almost a year cancer-free after four rounds of chemotherapy and a month of daily radiation for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer similar to leukemia. The Rock Hill High graduate was a senior at Coastal Carolina University when what was misdiagnosed for months as mononucleosis turned out to be cancer.
“Our whole world stopped that day we found out,” said her father, Todd Hill. “But we didn’t let it stay stopped. Brittany fought.”
Amy Hill, Brittany’s mother, said her daughter inspires the family to keep on doing their best, each day.
“Brittany is my hero,” Amy Hill said. “And in that get-up today, she is our princess, too.”
So many families and groups had similar stories Saturday of courage and guts, caring and love. Some have been walking at the annual event for years, even decades. There were almost 30 teams, and more individuals, with close to 300 people and volunteers helping. Close to $30,000 had been pledged even before the relay started Saturday.
Money raised in the Relay for Life, a national event celebrating 30 years in America in 2015 and more than 25 years in Rock Hill, goes toward research and finding cures. Relay for Life also supports nationwide support groups for transportation, hospitals, housing, and other needs of cancer patients.
Many other area places, including western York County, Lancaster, Chester, and Charlotte have relay events.
“The goal is to help anyone touched by cancer any way we can help,” said Nancy Greene, mission chair for eastern York County Relay For Life.
At Saturday’s events there was entertainment, and bands, but the cancer survivors were the real stars. The real royalty. And a princess named Brittany Hill led them all, walking with her purple tutu, and sharing her smile and love with so many people who need it.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 • firstname.lastname@example.org
To donate or learn more about a relay near you, visit relayforlife.org.