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Survivor shares story at Relay kickoff

Pennie Bickerstaff of Oneonta has no greater passion in life than finding a cure for cancer. She’s been an active part of Blount County Relay For Life for 15 years, serving as its chairperson.

For Bickerstaff, it’s personal. This cancer survivor lost her parents, her 39-year-old brother and a 22-year-old son to the disease.

“My son was failing and I had to decide between staying with him or going to Relay and I was so torn . . . he said, ‘Mom, you’ve got to go to Relay. We have to find a cure.’” Bickerstaff said with a glimmer of tears in her eyes.

Bickerstaff, a Hero of Hope for the American Cancer Society, shared her poignant story at the kick-off of the Butler County Relay For Life Thursday night at the Wendell Mitchell Conference Center on the LBWCC – Greenville campus, the site of the first county Relay 13 years ago.

The cancer survivor, who carries a hereditary gene for an extremely rare and serious form of colon cancer, encouraged those present to keep up the fight to raise funds and awareness.

“I get tired, sure. But when I look at the result; when I see those cancer survivors make that lap around the track, it’s all worth it. We need more communities, churches and businesses to get involved,” Bickerstaff said.

“I recently celebrated my 45th birthday with ACS and I am proud to be part of an organization that cares about people. Praise God and keep going.”

More than 40 ACS Board, Relay committee members and Team Captains attended the birthday-themed event and voted to make the 2010 Relay theme “Screening Out Cancer” (movies).

“This is perhaps the best crowd we’ve had for one of our kickoffs,” said Galahad Smith, Relay Chair. “I think we are off to a really good start.”

The next Team Captain’s meeting is set for February 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the Greenville Y. The Butler County Relay For Life is slated for May 7 at the YMCA football field.