A Relay of Hope

Every person has a story – but more specifically, a cancer story.

Take Rhonda Woody, branch manager of Manpower Inc., for example.

A year and a half ago, Woody visited the doctor to fill a prescription for allergy medication, but after the doctor performed routine blood work, she received the unexpected report she had been diagnosed with cancer.

Following her diagnosis, a group of friends decided to show their support for Woody by including her name in the Luminaria ceremony at Relay for Life, the largest annual fundraiser for The American Cancer Society.

Not having participated in the event before, Woody was inspired to take action and promote the event, becoming this year’s chair of Jefferson County’s Relay for Life. “This is the first time I’ve been involved with Relay for Life,” she said. “(This year’s) theme is everyone has a story. Cancer touches everyone’s life at some point, whether personally getting it themselves or a family or friend getting it.”

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 25,000 new cases of cancer are estimated to be diagnosed in Kentucky in 2012. However, with prevention and improved research, the number of people who will survive the disease has drastically increased.

Relay for Life has also been instrumental in combating the disease, providing healing, comfort and support to those affected by cancer. One in 100 Americans are expected to participate in one of the relays held this year in the US. “It’s almost like a movement on hope,” Woody said. “It brings cancer survivors and caretakers together. When we come together, there’s remembrance but a lot of celebration.”

Woody’s company has also stood behind her and all those who have been affected by the disease at Manpower, a workforce solutions and services provider company. “Manpower has a very large commitment to what our vision and values are,” Woody said. “I’m very fortunate to work for a company that encourages employees to get involved in community activities.”

Though she’s typically a private person, Woody said cancer had such an impact on her and her family that she was willing to step forward to help anyone else who may be diagnosed or know someone diagnosed with cancer.

“For me to go through this and to see what my family had to go through with the strain and the stress, I want to do anything I can do to help families going through this,” she said. “I’m stepping out of my comfort zone to tell my story. My big emphasis is on education and early screening.”

Since the inaugural Relay for Life in 1986, much improvement has been made in the fight against cancer. In fact, 350 more birthdays in the US are celebrated each day because of the progress that has occurred in cancer research.

“(Relay for Life) has such a huge impact,” Woody said. “It’s really hard to describe. People try to think what the definition is (of Relay for Life). Obviously it’s a fundraiser but it’s so much more than that. It’s about hope, it’s about understanding, it’s about how much in common we have with each other…It’s just an uplifting, inspiring, very powerful time for survivors and patients and (those that) have cancer.”

The 2012 Relay For Life of Jefferson County will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, May 18, and end at 7 a.m., Saturday, May 19, at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

For information on Jefferson County’s Relay for Life and to register or donate, visit www.relayforlife.org/jeffersonky.

Courtesy Photos