Miss-Lou relays for a cancer cure

Published 12:03 am Saturday, May 8, 2010

For cancer survivors, the Miss-Lou Relay for Life is kind of a holiday.

“You know how you look forward to Christmas when you are a child?” survivor Frankie Battiste asked. “I look forward to Relay and get more and more excited as it approaches. It is really a celebration of living and life.”

More than 100 survivors gathered Friday night for that party — that break from cancer — and thousands of supporters joined them. More than 40 tents lined a temporary track on the Vidalia Riverfront, selling food, toys and other goodies all to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

The ultimate goal, Battiste said, is to cure cancer.

“One day, it will be gone — a word of the past,” Battiste said. “If people get it, they won’t have to worry about dying.”

Battiste, who is also a caregiver for a cancer patient, was diagnosed with cancer in 2001.

“Relay is a time for survivors to get together — it gives us hope and a chance to remember those who are gone,” she said. “All of us survivors in the Miss-Lou are like a family.”

When Battiste, who is a registered nurse at Natchez Regional Medical Center, went through chemotherapy and lost her hair, the Relay for Life family stepped in quickly to get her Marilyn Monroe wig ready.

“And I had to wear it to work at Natchez Regional,” Battiste said. “It was funny to have to wear it, but I made the hairdo work.”

M.L. Miller, who attends Relay for Life every year, said he walks the track to show his support. Miller, who has attended many Relays around the area, said the Miss-Lou’s is the best.

“Nothing compares to the Miss-Lou on Relay (night),” he said.

The Miss-Lou Relay was ranked No. 2 in the nation per capita last year with approximately $240,000 raised. As of 9:45 p.m. Friday, teams had raised $166,000, but fundraising continued all night Friday.

Many teams on site said they were there for the long haul — until 7 a.m.

Susan Windham of the Our Lady of Lourdes church team said many of her team members were present at Relay for their friends.

“We have lots of friends in our church that have been sick with cancer,” she said. “And this is a chance for friends to get together for a reason.”

Windham’s team had raised approximately $5,000 early on Friday night, but fundraising continued with sales of cookies, brownies and a goodie-basket raffle.

For Natchez resident Callie Thompson, Friday night’s Relay was just another in long line of stepping out against cancer.

“My sister died with cancer,” she said. “But before I had anyone with cancer I started going (to Relay) at the Natchez Mall.”

Thompson, still recovering from back surgery, took it slow Friday, sitting when she needed to. But she had to be there, she said.