Teams taking a hike to fight cancer|[4/21/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 21, 2005

It helps to have someone to lean on for support. Pearl Carter, a cancer survivor, has her sister and her best friend.

The three are teaming up along with an estimated 10,000 others to volunteer in the fifth annual Warren County Relay for Life Friday to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Carter, 67, has been a lead organizer for the event for several years, serving on the committee as the survivor reception chair and the point of contact for year-round donations to ACS. She’s also facilitator of the Sisters By Choice relay team and a Reach to Recover volunteer. She has worked with advocacy groups and lobbied for funding at the state Capitol.

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In many ways, cancer surrounds Carter’s life. But she’s the first to admit that she’s lucky.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990, 12 years after one sister was diagnosed with the same type of cancer and 12 years before another sister, Eva Vines, would be diagnosed.

Carter’s best friend of 42 years, Myrtle Anderson, was also diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago.

“It’s definitely touched my life, family and friends,” said Carter.

Fortunately for Carter, Anderson and Vines, all three caught the cancer in its early stages and avoided chemotherapy. Although they all discovered the lumps in different ways, take different medication and see different doctors, there’s that common bond that keeps them close.

“At the time of my diagnosis, I didn’t really know too many people with breast cancer. My sister that was already diagnosed lived far away, so that was hard,” said Carter.

For Vines and Anderson, Carter’s hardship was a blessing.

“It definitely helped having her there since she had already been through it,” said Anderson, 73.

“She was a great cheerleader. I knew from her experience that I had to go to the doctor as soon as I found the lump. I couldn’t wait around,” said Vines, 77.

The women now know nearly everything there is to know about breast cancer and share their experiences and support with others at the Sisters By Choice support group.

“A common misunderstanding is that only older women get it. That’s not true at all. Young women get it, and men do, too,” said Anderson.

“Fortunately it’s one of the easiest forms to detect through regular screenings or self exams,” Vines said.

Another way the three fight cancer is by doing something they love to do – baking bread.

“Eva and I make homemade bread year-round for family and friends. We have repeat customers, and all the money we make goes towards Relay for Life,” said Carter.

The homemade rolls, bread loaves and herb oil and vinegar dressing will be for sale at the Sisters By Choice team booth Friday during the relay.

“We’re also selling rickshaw rides for $1 each and raffling off a CD stereo,” said Carter.

She said they made the rickshaw, a buggy pulled by someone that was originally used in Japan, at home.

And the highlight of their booth will be a simulated “American Idol” karaoke contest, which keeps with the relay theme of “Tune In for a Cure.”

“It costs $1 to perform. Our judges will pick the top three, and then the audience will vote on the winner to be named ‘American Relay Idol,”‘ Carter said.

Kristy Cole, chairman of the Warren County relay, said this year has been the most successful year so far.

“Last year we raised $55,000. This year our goal is $62,000, which I think we’ll surpass,” she said.

“The thing about Relay for Life is that absolutely all the money we make can stay here in Warren County if we need it to,” she said.

Cole said there are many programs sponsored by the American Cancer Society that people don’t know about – from support groups to Camp Rainbow for children to college scholarships.

“Relay for Life is a lot of fun for everyone, and it’s for a great cause. We’re thankful we have people like Miss Pearl that have been instrumental in organizing the event and keeping Vicksburg on top of cancer awareness,” she said.