Music and message combined on July 22 at the 2015 Galax/Carroll County Relay for Life Survivor Banquet at the Hillsville First United Methodist Church (FUMC) to highlight strength, courage, hope and survival for cancer victims and their families.
Featured speaker Angie Sifford Nichols, a Hillsville native and breast cancer survivor, returned to her hometown and poignantly pointed out it was an honor to walk in every Relay for Life walk held in Hillsville. FUMC youth group members and other volunteers were on hand to serve the food and provide entertainment.
FUMC members Jenny Brown and Morgan Lyons sang Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” and Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” for the more than 65 participants attending.
“This is my fight song. Take back my life song. Prove I’m alright song,” sang Brown and Lyons to the more than 60 banquet participants. Other lyrics to the tune included “My power’s turned on; (Starting right now) I’ll be strong.”
Emma Reitzel sang Tasha Cobb’s song “Break Every Chain.” The work centered on faith’s power to break every constraint to the afflicted and promised “There’s an army rising up.” Place mats for the meal were created by Hillsville Elementary students in art classes.
Nichols told the group about her harrowing journey through treatments for Stage IV breast cancer. She tearfully recalled how the discovery of a swelling in one breast sent her to the hospital for an ultrasound. Further diagnostic tests included a tissue sample which was sent to a lab to be analyzed.
“Of course I had to wait two weeks,” said Nichols. “My gynecologist said ‘I’m sorry. You have breast cancer.’ I felt like a deer in the headlights. All I heard was (the word) cancer.”
She described the pain of having to tell her young children about the results of the tests and how she tested positive on four of six indicators for the cancer.
“On my 40th birthday, I went in for a double mastectomy,” Nichols said. “They sang happy birthday to me as they wheeled me into surgery.”
Eight chemo-therapy treatments followed the surgery and then Nichols underwent 28 radiation treatments en route to beating the disease. She stressed the importance of knowing one’s body and early detection, which proved to be a lucky break for her.
“I know now when I look around this room that cancer doesn’t discriminate,” said Nichols. “Thank God for every day he gives us the strength to get up. It’s awesome to be a survivor, but you continue to live with it for the rest of your life.”
Nichols told the group two years ago she became really active with local Susan G. Kommen “Race for the Cure” efforts. She praised the support she had received from family and friends and from Hillsville.
“The earlier you catch it the better your survival rate,” Nichols said. “You’re a strong community. Keep that strength going. To know you have community behind you means a lot. I know I can come up here and get support from you all. I’d like to see pink as a color again and not standing for breast cancer. Maybe one day we will have a cure.”
Relay for Life Chairperson Judy Beasley said finding a cure was precisely why the banquet and the event is held.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.