After detecting a lump within her breast and undergoing several mammograms and biopsies, Stacey Mosley was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.
She underwent 18 chemotherapy treatments and 35 radiation treatments to eliminate her tumor. The process was painful and humiliating, but she endured it, and ultimately triumphed.
She recalls receiving her first chemotherapy treatment on a Friday. The following Monday, she awoke to find that all of her hair had fallen onto her pillow.
Her baldness hardly shamed her, as it was but one necessary step toward winning her fight against cancer.
Three years later, she shared her story before an open crowd and how her experience had made her stronger than she was before.
“All you can say is that it was God that got me through and it was God that brought me here today,” she said.
Her speech opened the Fort Meade and Frostproof Relay for Life, an annual fundraiser held nationwide to raise money for cancer awareness and research.
This year welcomed the return of the event to the Fort Meade Middle-Senior High School football field, from which it had been absent for the past two years due to costs implemented by the school, and the first year that the two U.S. Highway 98 cities held a combined relay event, the idea for which was mandated by the American Cancer Society which is the sponsor agency for such events.
“We love it down here at the football field,” said Kathy Belcher of Lewis Anna Woodbury Elementary School. “It’s much better because it’s a much larger place to walk. The other place we did not have enough room to walk, and this way, we get more laps out of it.”
While some welcomed the new cooperation between the two communities, others, most notably Frostproof residents, were less than pleased about the travel this change required on their part.
Of the 22 teams that participated that evening, only three were from Frostproof.
“I don’t think this is a good idea because next year we would have to go to Frostproof,” said Jerry Sykes of First Presbyterian Church of Fort Meade. “Nothing against Frostproof, but it’s enough work holding it in your own town, let alone traveling 15 miles to go do it.”
The relay began at 6 p.m. Friday with opening remarks by chair and co-chair Beverly Graves and Denise Harrell, followed by an invocation by Rev. Dan Brockman of the Fort Meade Worship Center.
“It has been a challenge, there have been several changes to the relay, but we have survived,” Harrell said. “We have heard a lot, and we had to keep remembering why we do relay: we do relay to help find a cure for cancer. Until there is a cure, we will keep doing it.”
As the high school band played the national anthem, the American flag was raised over the south end of the field by a Bartow Fire Department truck.
The first lap of the evening was the Survivors Lap, with more than 60 cancer survivors proudly marching behind a purple banner along the track to celebrate their victory over cancer.
For the very next lap, they were joined by their caregivers for the Caregivers Lap, which honors those who have helped others win their battle against cancer.
For the rest of the evening until the next morning, teams camped around the track and took turns running or walking laps, all the while selling concessions and partaking in other activities.
This year’s theme being “Cancer Is Not A Game,” each team set up their booths with games or board game-based decorations.
At 9 p.m., the lights were dimmed for the Luminaria, when participants would walk a lap in silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives to cancer.
The only lights during that time were the luminarias, or decorated lanterns, set around the track, each dedicated to a cancer victim.
The other light was that of the light board on the south end of the field, which spelled out “hope,” and later, “cure,” to signify the hope of inevitably finding a cure for cancer so that walks like this would no longer be required.
So far, organizers report that $58,600 has been raised, although there is still time for money to come in and be counted for this year’s total.
The team that raised the most money was Southside, which raised more than $10,000, while the individual who raised the most money was Thelma Chambers, who raised almost $2,000.
“We didn’t quite have the participation from Frostproof that we had anticipated, so that may have been part of the reason that we didn’t meet our goal, but that’s okay,” Denise Harrell said. “Anything that is raised for the American Cancer Society is just one more dollar more that they didn’t have before.”