Many McDuffie County residents go all out for Relay for Life, and their enthusiasm has been joined by Dan Lyons of Antioch, Calif. Mr. Lyons, a cancer patient, has been walking across America to raise awareness for the American Cancer Society.
Dan Lyons walks on the property at 1810 Country Inn and Winery Saturday afternoon.
On March 15, Mr. Lyons left Sacramento, Calif, and has walked approximately 20-30 miles every day since then. His goal is to reach Charleston, S.C. in early August. His trek took him through Thomson Saturday, where he spent the night at the 1810 Country Inn and Winery.
"It's not really about me," he said. "It's about Relay for Life, and what they do to prevent cancer in more people."
Since he left the west coast, Mr. Lyons said he walked through two weeks of rain in California, then snow in New Mexico, slept in a jail on an Indian reservation in Arizona, and is now enduring the Georgia summer heat.
The walk is hard because of the pack he carries on his back, Mr. Lyons said. He has suffered from bone cancer for six years, and the weight of the pack aggravates the pain in his back. Mr. Lyons said he initially had chemo treatments for the cancer. Now he refuses to take any medications, because he needs to be alert. When told he had only one year to live, Mr. Lyons said he didn't want to waste any time feeling sorry for himself.
"There are too many people practicing to die instead of practicing to live," he said. "Who wants to do hospice?"
Mr. Lyons hopes to increase awareness about cancer because his sister died from cancer nine months ago, and his mother is a 22-year cancer survivor. The American Cancer Society sign on his backpack has brought him many opportunities to talk with people. Mr. Lyons said he has learned everyone has a story about someone who's been affected by cancer.
"It's been inspiring to so many people," he said. "They are living vicariously through my walk."
As he walks through small towns and visits with the people, Mr. Lyons said he has a better understanding of America. He said he has learned that Southerners have a "special cohesion," unlike people in California.
"The walk gives me a feel of the fabric of America. The people get close to you all of a sudden," he said. "Southerners have a sense of family... Everyone takes care of each other."
He said this fact is obvious in the success of the Relays in Georgia. Mr. Lyons said he was impressed that McDuffie County raises $200,000 each year. He said his "much more populated" county in California "doesn't even raise much more than $20,000."
The 55-year-old retired school teacher said he has gone through six pairs of shoes during his 3,100-mile walk.
While Mr. Lyons was in Thomson, Ryans donated his lunch and 1810 provided his night's stay. Mayor Bob Knox took Mr. Lyons on a tour of the area. Mr. Lyons said he appreciated all the hospitality, and he has learned to bide his time on the road.
"I reflect on life," he said. "And I sing. I sing loud. I guess that's why the animals never bother me."