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Local cancer survivors celebrate birthdays
Kay and Carlton McGregor, of Nashville, attended the survivor dinner Monday night. Both have been cancer free for three years.
Around 500 survivors, caregivers and family of survivors came out to Englewood Baptist Church Monday night for Relay for Life’s annual Survivor Dinner.

Nash County Ruritans sponsor the event, serving meals to those in attendance.

Tony Russ was the guest speaker for the event.

Russ told of his experiences with cancer, first in 1951 when his grandmother passed away after battling cancer and then years later when he and his wife had their first child.

Russ’ son Brandon was diagnosed with a type of leukemia at the age of 26 months. Russ told of the struggles the family faced, the misdiagnoses, the recoveries. Russ said his family tried to live every day to its fullest. Today, Brandon is a senior at Rocky Mount High School and a start athlete set to graduate in May.

“My son was sick, not dead,” Russ said. “We have experienced all the ugly effects of cancer.”

Russ said survivors were important to the world’s fight against cancer.

“With every battle you fight, every battle we fight, we get closer to a cure,” he said.

“You can help others through the struggle, you can help others through your struggle,” he added.

“Cherish every moment, you are making a difference,” Russ said. “You are a survivor.”

Monday night’s event also included a special surprise.

John Wade, of Wade Designs Jewelry, also told of his experiences with cancer. Wade’s wife, Laneta, received a diagnoses of Hodgkin’s disease. During one of the treatments, she also received a diagnosis of Leukemia and just before her 34th birthday, passed away.

A few years after her death, Wade remarried and moved to Rocky Mount, opening up his jewelry business. Wade designed a locket in memory of Laneta and calls it “Laneta’s Heart.” On Monday night, Wade gave 100 lockets to Relay for Life to give away at the survivor dinner.

“I am not a cancer survivor but cancer radically changed my life,” Wade said.

In addition to the jewelry giveaway and guest speaker, guests also celebrated their birthday.

Elaine Pate, who chairs the Survivor Dinner, told guests that celebrating a birthday is another victory.

“We’re celebrating more birthdays tonight,” Pate said. “Your birthday is always about you. The American Cancer Society thinks every birthday is a victory.”

Pate thanked everyone for coming, including the 105 new survivors who had registered to attend the event.

“Tonight you the survivor are the honored guests,” Pate said. “You are the reason we relay.”

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