Expectations exceeded: Relay for Life sets record in fight against cancer

relay queen
Team Cancer Hatin’ Hornet won the Queen of the Relay title. Pictured is Cinnamon, center, played by Austin Feuerborn, with her Hornets, played by Dakota Feuerborn and Evan Davis.

By Carolyn Cole/Staff Writer

Mustang Relay for Life raised over $60,000, almost $15,000 more than last year when it was honored as a top American Cancer Society youth event.

gallery linkChairwoman Sarah Bryan said over 500 people volunteered including team members who took turns walking the track from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday, and parent and community chaperones.

“We have grown in every area possible from number of teams and number of survivors to number of corporate sponsors,” she said. “I am so proud and thankful for my committee. They did a first- class job and every one of them deserves so much more thanks than I can offer.”

Cancer survivors opened the relay walking the first lap. 2008 Committee Chairman Josh West, a Hodgkins Lymphoma survivor, finished the lap first with 5-year-old Xander Moore at his side. Xander recently relapsed with neuroblastoma and finished his first week of radiation treatments before attending the relay.

Xander was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2004, his grandmother Elaine Brown said. His family first mistook a bump on the 2-year-old’s head for a bee sting. Within three days of going to the hospital, Xander had his first surgery to remove the tumor.

“‘God, why would you do this to a little boy?’ Then we decided God had an incredible plan for him, and we just needed to embrace it,” Brown said.

As Xander underwent stem cell transplants, surgeries and years of chemotherapy treatments, Brown said her family’s faith remained strong. She said her Mustang Middle School sixth-grade students all wrote letters to Xander, cheering him on. Knowing a child facing cancer really brought reality home to her students, Brown said.

“We decided to let them be a part of our journey this time,” she said. “It’s alright to let people know that you are hurting.”
Brown said her family knew once Xander went into remission the cancer could return at any time. While they know Xander could die from the disease, she said her family doesn’t dwell on it and tries to live each day to the fullest.

As for her grandson, he still plays T-ball and video games, loves the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and plays with his friends around the neighborhood. Brown said the cancer has made her family stronger.

“It has changed all of our lives but for an incredible better,” she said. “That’s hard to say, but it is because of the friends you make, the other people you get to help through the death of a child.”

Queen of the relay

Austin Feuerborn buzzed his way to win the Queen of the relay title, as Cinnamon the Hornets Honeybee.

The team Cancer Hatin’ Hornets was inspired by local resident Carol Davis, ovarian cancer survivor and avid basketball fan.

Davis was diagnosed in 2001 after a doctor felt tumors during a pelvic exam. The real estate agent kept working despite undergoing two surgeries in a month and six months of chemotherapy.

“I had great people at work, my boss was fantastic, my husband was great, my family, my friends, they were just phenomenal, just great,” she said. “If it hadn’t been for them, I don’t honestly know how I would have done it. You’ve got to have that support.”
Davis has two sons — at the time one was in high school and the other in elementary school. She said she doesn’t know how either coped with her illness, but added both were strong and supportive.

“My son’s whole class drew pictures for me,” she said.

Since fighting cancer, Davis said volunteering at relays has taken on a new meaning for her. This year she sewed Feuerborn’s costume, from his teal ankle-high boots and shorts reading “sting cancer.” She met the family through a little league baseball team her husband coaches; he almost decided not to volunteer as Davis finished her final chemotherapy treatments. However, she said she pushed him forward.

“They’ve become just like family,” she said.

Bronco pride

Mid-high teacher Libby Smith offered students tips for a healthy life — be kind, love your family and never smoke.

She said she learned those three lessons from her father who died in 2005 from leukemia.

“The man had three open chest surgeries and two types of cancer, and he never was able to quit smoking,” she said. “Let that be a lesson to you guys, never start smoking.”

Smith said her dad was her “Superman” — there wasn’t a problem he couldn’t fix or a friend he couldn’t help.

However after surviving two heart attacks and kidney cancer, leukemia proved to be too much.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to watch my dad take his last breath,” she said. “But you know, I know death is a part of life, and that God had a plan for him in his life, and God was ready to take him home.”

Smith said everyone has been touched by cancer in some way, which is why she couldn’t be prouder of her students’ fund-raising efforts. She said some days teachers become discouraged when teens fail to complete assignments or come to class prepared.

“It’s this kind of a thing that restores my faith in you guys, and I get to see another side of you,” she said. “You guys are awesome. I am so proud of you, and it’s so encouraging to see how hard you work and how much effort you put into this and how much fun you can have.”

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