Why we walk:

A survivor shares the importance of the Relay for Life of Darlington County

By Jana E. Pye, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was in a panic,” said Frances J. McElveen, 21 year survivor and Team Caption of Relay for Life of Darlington County. “And years later, my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. I can tell you first hand how helpful the American Cancer Society (ACA) was to me and my family.”

At the time of her diagnosis, McElveen, a resident of Hartsville, was a very healthy woman; she worked full time, ate well, and worked out. “If it had not been for the early detection from my annual physical, I may not have been so fortunate.”

Frances and Don McElveen, seated, with family at Relay for Life.

Frances and Don McElveen, seated, with family at Relay for Life.

She attributes the ACA with helping her decide on a treatment option.

“My physician first recommended a mastectomy, but I wasn’t sure. I found the number to ACA, and was able to talk to survivors of various types of treatments. I felt more informed and confident that I had made the best choice for me, which was a lumpectomy followed by radiation. I called the toll-free number often, and spoke for hours!” recalled McElveen. “My surgeon told me after the surgery that I had made the right choice.”

After surgery, McElveen traveled from Hartsville to Florence for lengthy radiation treatments, and has had a clean bill of health in the 21 years since.
Then, four years ago, her husband, Donald, was given the news that he had lung cancer.

“Don’s cancer was inoperable,” said McElveen. “And his doctor told him that radiation had come a long way – that he could be fitted with a mask to allow the radiation to be pinpointed directly on the mass.”

His physician recommended that he do the treatments in Atlanta, or Charleston.

“Our grandson lives in Atlanta, so we chose that hospital, and stayed with him.”

It only took 4 treatments to irradiate the cancer from his lung. Now Don, like his survivor wife, has had perfect check ups ever since.

“The radiation technology that saved my husband is now available at McLeod, which is a blessing to so many.”

Houses are available for families free of charge at the Charleston S.C. and the Atlanta, GA cancer treatment centers.

“It was available to us,” she said. “And we would have been grateful to use it, if we had not had our grandson there. Friends of ours used it in Charleston, however, and it was a blessing to them.”

McElveen is concerned that the Relay for Life participation has gone down in recent years, and hopes to revive this year’s event to help support the American Cancer Society.
She notes that the event itself brings awareness to people participating, as information is shared throughout the event about early detection, programs available for people diagnosed with cancer, as well as being and empowering walk for survivors.

The evening features an especially touching tradition, with luminary bags lit at nightfall “In Memory”, and “In Honor” of loved ones and friends who have had cancer, and “In Appreciation” of caregivers.

“It is a special way for even children to participate in decorating the bags,” said McElveen. “And it is not too late to register teams!”

The event, which used to last all night long, is now shorted to 6:00 p.m. to midnight, which may make it more attractive to people that had difficulty keeping enough people to walk the entire night.

Readers of the News and Press have been keeping up with the Darlington High School Honor Society student’s “Adventures with Flo” fundraiser to collect funds for their Relay Team.

For information on participating in the event, purchasing a Luminary Bag for $10, or sponsoring a track sign for $100, contact Frances McElveen, 332-6740, or Chinel Boateng at 843-245-8438, chinel.boateng@cancer.org or visit www.relayforlife.org/darlingtonsc

Survivor’s Brunch
The American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Darlington County will host a Survivor’s Brunch on Saturday, April 11th at 9:30 a.m., at West Hartsville Baptist Church, 1003 W. Carolina Ave., Hartsville. The event will honor cancer survivors, remember those who have passed on, and appreciate their caregivers. The event features speakers, lunch, entertainment, door prizes, and a fun filled morning. This is a free event! To learn more, or to donate door prizes from your organization/business, contact Frances McElveen at 332-6740 or email: fmfmhartsville4@gmail.com

Relay for Life of Darlington County
This year the American Cancer Society Relay for Life will celebrate 30 years, but the fight isn’t over until there is a cure. Therefore, on May 1st from 6:00 p.m. to Midnight, the Relay for Life of Darlington County will be held at the campus of Emmanuel Christian School, 1001 N. Marquis Highway, Hartsville. This county-wide community event will feature a Lighting Ceremony with luminary bags to be lit at nightfall “In Memory”, and “In Honor” of loved ones and friends who have had cancer, and “In Appreciation” of caregivers.

Author: Duane Childers

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