Related story: McDuffie tops nation in per capita donations in similar-sized counties
Seven years ago, Dr. Jacqueline Fincher and other dedicated fundraisers walked all night long in the pouring rain to raise money for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life.
That first Relay For Life event has grown, and now the annual community-wide effort has attracted national attention.
"It's a great source of pride for me to see how well it has done," said Dr. Fincher, who teamed up with community leaders like Thomson Mayor Bob Knox to launch the event in April 1998.
This year the Relay for Life topped a new high and put McDuffie County in the national limelight for being the top fundraiser for counties of its size. Local residents raised over $200,000 this year.
That first year, "Our original goal was to make $10,000. We made over $50,000," said Dr. Fincher.
Dr. Fincher and her cancer support group were instrumental in launching the Relay For Life in McDuffie County.
"The Cancer Society came to our group and asked us to help start a Relay For Life," she said.
Those efforts paid off, and every year more community participation is logged while more cancer survivors walk the first lap in the relay to celebrate life and the hope that cancer can be beaten.
Among the cancer survivors walking each year are a number of women who have participated in Dr. Fincher's cancer support group.
The group, which began 10 years ago to support women with breast cancer, soon evolved into a support network for women with various types of cancer. The purpose is to help and support women by providing a setting for them to be open, honest and vulnerable.
A number of women have benefited from the group over the years, getting a range of advice from practical, personal tips to emotional support.
"Several studies show that cancer survivors who participate in support groups live longer and have a better quality of life" Dr. Fincher said.
When first diagnosed, "You feel so alone." The group seeks to teach different coping strategies, and to provide a sense of hope and encouragement. Some women struggle with accepting a diagnosis of cancer, but then join the group.
Dr. Fincher wants women to understand, "Yes, you have it. But you can survive and thrive."
Dr. Fincher believes when women open their hearts to let others help, it makes the burden lighter.
The support group, which fluctuates in size from a few women to as many as 15, meets the second Thursday of every month at the McDuffie Regional Medical Center's community room from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
For more information on the support group, or to join, call Dr. Fincher at 595-1461 or Debbie Jones at the hospital, 597-5404.