Randy Redner's memories of cancer's toll remain as clear as his resolve to fight cancer.
"Sixteen years ago I lost my dad to cancer, and I lost my dad in 90 days," he said Thursday as he addressed the Thomson Rotary Club.
Mr. Redner, the Georgia state vice president of the American Cancer Society, and other staff also visited to support Thomson's reinstated Relay for Life. The fundraiser will be May 13-14.
His lighthearted opening remarks on his career and on Rotary led him to the serious topic of the organization that targets cancer through education, advocacy, research and education.
His father, Bill Redner, of Niceville in northwest Florida, died in 1995 at age 72.
"The last time I saw my dad walk, we were playing a round of golf," he said.
After the diagnosis, their only time together was at medical facilities.
Mr. Redner was joined in Thomson by Karen Lewis, the manager of the Athens and Augusta offices of the American Cancer Society.
Annie Y. Smith, the manager of brand initiatives and corporate communications for the ACS National Home Office in Atlanta, also visited the Thomson Rotary Club.
Rotarian Jason Smith arranged Thursday's program.
Mr. Redner, who also has an office in Atlanta, said cancer will claim 570,000 Americans this year.
He also gave perspective: "So while we sit here for 60 minutes, 60 more Americans will be gone from cancer."
He continued, "About thirty-seven-hundred people today will be sitting in a doctor's office, and that doctor will say, 'You have cancer.' "
Mr. Redner said the American Cancer Society is not limited to fighting one type of cancer. "We're after every cancer, every day in every community," he said.
He said many people primarily associate the organization with its research work, and he said the socity channels $150 million a year into research.
Over the years, that has totaled $3.4 billion for cancer research that has produced 44 Nobel Prize winners.
"The work that you're doing right here in McDuffie County has pushed that forward," he said. He said McDuffie's Relay for Life fundraisers have gathered far more than the average for McDuffie's population range.
The society offers a 24-hour information support and information line: (800) 227-2345.
The Look Good ... Feel Better program teaches female cancer patients beauty tips after chemotherapy and radiation treatments. "But that's not the magic of Look Good ... Feel Better," Mr. Redner said. "It's those six women sitting around the table with a common problem and working together."
Mr. Redner previously directed the Gwinnett County, Ga., Relay for Life, one of the largest of the 5,000 events that raise $400 million a year for the society.
He called the Thomson fundraiser "a big family reunion in the community."
"You guys are top-shelf," he said of Thomson's fundraising record. "I can never thank you enough for that."
He said that cancer death rates have been declining since the early 1990s and that there are now 11.4 million cancer survivors in the United States.
He said his organization has been campaigning to raise Georgia's cigarette tax, one of the lowest in the nation, to discourage teens from smoking.
The American Cancer Society, he said, puts 71 cents of each dollar into services and is working to improve that mark.