‘I was one of the lucky ones’

American Cancer Society community manager Rachel Miller talks about the society’s mission and what it’s currently funding.

Photos by Kelsey Leyva | Wellington Enterprise Alecia Dennis and CaTonya Schmitt lead cancer survivors as they walk the first lap of the day.

Father and son Todd and Gary Weegman walk the first lap of the day.

Kim Werdebaugh, Mary Turizziani, and Julie Farley hold the sign for their team during the team lap.

Jacki Dunlap, Sandy Hamilton, and Toni Novotny walk together to represent their team, Band of Friends.

Brandon Lowery, Tracy Fralick, Wanda Fralick, Dylan Lowery, Susie Reber, and Megan Novosielski hold their sign as they wait for the team lap to begin.

Cancer survivor CaTonya Bryant Schmitt speaks at the opening ceremony.

Alecia Dennis and her son Kolton finish the survivor lap together.

Event lead Brenda Wetherbee asks first-time walkers to raise their hands and be recognized.

Cancer doesn’t always mean death.

That was part of CaTonya Bryant Schmitt’s message Saturday when she spoke during the opening ceremony of the Relay For Life of Southern Lorain County event on Willard Memorial Square.

Schmitt was diagnosed with breast cancer last September.

“After that everything kind of moved pretty quickly,” she said. “I had a biopsy, did a partial mastectomy, did four rounds of chemo, 33 rounds of radiation, and now I am completely finished.”

She is gratfeul the cancer was found early and that she received so much support from the community.

“Our small community is amazing,” Schmitt told Wellington Relay walkers. “But thanks to my family, my friends, my co-workers, it was actually not that bad of a journey as what I thought it would be. I was one of the lucky ones.”

Schmitt also talked about advances in technology, which she credits with making her journey to recovery easier.

Rachel Miller, an American Cancer Society community manager, introduced Schmitt and spoke about the research the society has funded recently.

“Currently we are funding 847 grants totaling more than $438 million as of Aug. 1, 2014,” Miller said. “Some of the new work you are helping to fund is a better understanding of how cancer cells work and why they come about.”

Some of today’s most promising emerging treatment areas include targeted therapy, personalized cancer treatment, and immunotherapy.

Researchers are also focusing on how and why obesity increases the risk of cancer and on finding ways to increase cancer screening rates.

The society also helps patients find access to resources such as wigs, support groups, and rides to and from treatment sessions.

Event organizer Brenda Wetherbee said this year the relay movement is 30 years strong.

“We would not be this strong without each and every one of you being involved in today’s events and with the American Cancer Society the other 364 days of the year,” she said. “Every dollar that is raised, every hour of volunteering brings us one step closer to finding cures.”

In all, 10 teams with 110 people walked in the annual Relay event. A majority were from Wellington.

The walk was shortened for the first time this year to 14 hours. In the past, it has stretched from 10 a.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday.

All funds raised are going to the American Cancer Society. The goal this year was to raise $35,000 for the cause.

Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.