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Southern Eyes

All too often, someone receives the devastating news they have cancer. It never seems to strike someone who is "deserving," if there is such. (Unless it's the infamous terrorist, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Pan Am Flight 103 bomber who suffers prostate cancer.)

There are so many types of cancer and it is too wide-spread. That is why the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life has been such a big event in McDuffie County for so long. We are like family in this community and if cancer hits one of us, so many are affected.

It only makes sense that we would be top dog in the nation as far as money raised per capita, because everyone jumped on the band wagon with great passion, and had fun. Therefore, it also makes sense that some people would be burned out.

So, it is understandable that those in charge begged to take a break next year. Hopefully, the break won't break the spirit.

Relay brought the community together, plain and simple. Yes, there were a few who felt it was over-done, or at least not equally balanced. Because not only are local families affected by cancer, but also by heart disease, Alzheimer's, muscular dystrophy, autism, cystic fibrosis, diabetes ... the list could go on. And each of these has its own walk to raise money.

I have lost family members to heart disease and Alzheimer's, and I have diabetes. I also have lost family members to cancer. A little more than 10 years ago, I lost three family members to cancer in three weeks. Two of them were cousins the same age as me. The other was an uncle -- who also was the father of one of those cousins. Our whole family was stricken with grief in a way we thought could not be possible.

Recently, the county lost a much-loved citizen when Chris Pelly, Roads and Bridges director, succumbed to cancer shortly after it was diagnosed.

And last week, two artists who are respected members of the McDuffie Arts Council were hospitalized for cancer treatment -- Roel Wielinga and Robert Schifeld.

Both Mr. Wielinga and Mr. Schifeld are fantasy artists.

Mr. Wielinga is known at local festivals, where he sketches on-the-spot pencil portraits. Mr. Schifeld recently worked with students at Norris Elementary School, who wrote stories for his drawings. Mr. Schifeld donated his works to the students.

MAC Chairman Marion Ivey said the arts council hopes to become a big part of raising funds for Relay For Life.

And that is why I think Relay should continue in McDuffie County.

We don't have to remain No. 1 in the nation.

But we don't need to let it die.

Because cancer is not taking a break.

Web posted on Thursday, September 03, 2009

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