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Miss-Lou residents brave mud, muck for relay

JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Cancer survivors and supporters walk together as the sun sets during the 17th annual Miss-Lou Relay for Life early Friday evening on the riverfront in Vidalia.
JAY SOWERS | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT
Cancer survivors and supporters walk together as the sun sets during the 17th annual Miss-Lou Relay for Life early Friday evening on the riverfront in Vidalia.

NATCHEZ — Dorothy Hill wasn’t expecting to hear the word “cancer” when she went to the doctor one day 10 years ago.

It was just a routine appointment.

Sure, she’d recently felt a little tired, but she hadn’t been ill and didn’t have any reason to suspect anything was wrong.

But then she got the news.

“I went just went for a checkup, and the doctor said there was a red flag that came up on my blood work,” Hill said.

Getting that news out of the blue can only evoke one reaction.

“Naturally, I was very scared,” Hill said.

After more blood work and a bone marrow test, Hill’s cancer was determined to be a very rare one. Fortunately, it was located in and limited to her spleen.

That meant that, unlike so many other cancer survivors, once Hill’s spleen was removed she didn’t have to undergo further treatment.

Now, she goes to the doctor once a year for an annual reassurance that the cancer has not reoccurred.

Another annual event related to her cancer — and her survival — for Hill is the Miss-Lou Relay for Life, where she walks with other survivors and supporters.

Friday, the 17th annual Miss-Lou Relay for Life was on the Vidalia Riverfront. The Relay is an all-night vigil that serves as fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Over the course of the night, participants walk laps around a track in memory of those who have died of cancer or who are currently receiving treatment for it.

Teams — usually rallying around a survivor or the memory of someone who has died — raise funds for the event throughout the year. Miss-Lou Relay For Life accounting chair Janis Holder said approximately 60 teams participated in the 2013 fundraising effort, and that 45 of those teams had representation at the Relay site.

The 2013 Relay was soggy and cool, following two days of off-and-on rain that left the riverfront sopping and forced organizers to rope off a portion of what was originally supposed to the be Relay site because of it being underwater.

But Holder said the event would have gone forward even if rain had kept pouring.

“The American Cancer Society’s plan is to always carry on and do the Relay because people with cancer, they don’t have the option to stop their treatments or bypass one treatment because it is nasty outside,” Holder said.

“We are going to have the best little time out here slipping and sliding tonight.”

Early fundraising accounting indicated that the Miss-Lou effort was set to surpass last year’s collection.

“We are a little bit ahead of where we were last year at this time,” Holder said. “(Friday morning) we had between $154,000 and $155,000.”

Survivor Bill Lambert said he tries to be involved with Relay after catching a melanoma in its early stages on his chest 25 years ago.

“I spent all my early years in high school and college life guarding and teaching swimming, and when you have got this Irish light skin, the sun is not good,” he said.

“Nobody knew what sunscreen was, so it was a comedy of errors.”

Less comedic was the year of thrice-weekly chemotherapy that followed having the melanoma removed, Lambert said.

“I was one of the lucky people who happened to find it early, paid attention and got it before it really got going,” he said.

“After having cancer, everything you took for granted becomes very special — waking up, getting up, going to work being able to do the things that you like to do, you appreciate and you even appreciate the things that the guy next to you is doing.”

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