Another year of Calhoun County’s relay for life has passed, and again that fund-raising effort has proven to be one of northeast Alabama’s undeniable success stories. Last weekend’s event at McClellan filled Anniston’s youth soccer fields with a few thousand participants and helped celebrate the raising of nearly a half-million dollars for the fight against this devilish disease.
The unfortunate reality is that Relay 2010 neither met its local goal of raising $500,000 nor matched the amount raised just a year ago. Given the times, there is no fault in that. Instead, it’s a stark reminder that worthwhile charities of all stripes can’t avoid the turmoil that comes when businesses shutter, when workers lose their jobs, and when income and revenue become scarce.
In that regard, it may be remarkable that Calhoun County’s Relay for Life raised more than $490,000. Let’s expect that total to rise in the coming years as the economy regains its footing.
Let’s also expect that this community will continue to believe in Relay’s cause.
Cancer is no back-page health issue. It can strike anyone, at any time, but it strikes Southerners with an alarming regularity.
It’s obvious that often we are our own worst enemies: Cancer rates often follow hand-in-hand with some of the South’s worst traits, such as smoking and unhealthy eating habits.
Today, Alabama owns one of the nation’s most severe incidence rates for cancer. Calhoun County is eighth in the state with an average of 264 cancer-related deaths per year from 2002 to 2006, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Its annual cancer death rate of 208.1 puts it in the state’s top half. (Cleburne County is third at 242.1, NCI stats say.)
Though not all cancers are caused by unhealthy habits, it’s paramount that those in medicine and politics continue to push Alabamians to adopt lifestyles that can reduce cancer’s grip on this state, and particularly on northeast Alabama, one of the state’s cancer hotspots.
That effort is never-ending. Eventually, state Sen. Vivian Figures of Mobile may get her anti-smoking bill through the state Legislature to help convey a needed message. And those with influence over children and teenagers — parents and educators, for instance — must redouble the sermon against tobacco use and other activities that fuel cancer rates.
Combating cancer isn’t a once-a-year activity. Just ask someone who’s survived it, or a family that has lost a member from it.
If anything, perhaps that is the message to take from Relay for Life 2010.
Money was tight; organizers just missed their monetary goal. But the fight against cancer starts with trying to stave it off before it begins. Until there’s a cure, reducing the cancers that we can affect is a proactive way to take part in Relay’s message.