My first experience with Relay for Life came in 1997 in Brewton, Ala.

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I had worked there for about six months when this beautiful woman, about my age, walked into my office. She was looking for groups to volunteer as teams for the Greater Brewton area’s annual Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

I was very interested in what she had to say. Like most people, I have been touched by cancer through the death of my grandmother (who I never had the honor of knowing) and my grandfather (who I had for 30 years).

During the course of our conversation, this woman told me her story.

She was exactly my age, 23 at the time. She had three children – a 3-year-old little boy and twin 2-year-old little girls – and just a year before, she had discovered a lump in her breast. The lump had turned out to be breast cancer, and she had gone through its removal and a round of chemotherapy.

Take a walk for cancer survival

By Candace Parker/News Editor

She was now working hard to organize the area’s Relay for Life.

Her spirit and dedication were amazing to me. She made it clear that she wanted her three children to understand that no matter what happens, you can never give up.

Cancer survivors are like this and they are all around us.

The ones who have been blessed with a second chance realize it and take advantage of that chance, many times, to work for a cure.

This year, I’ve had the opportunity to work with one of these energetic survivors in Columbiana, Linda Wren.

Linda’s tireless efforts for the American Cancer Society will be evident on Friday night at Columbiana’s Relay for Life.

She is truly an inspiration to all of us.

Let me encourage you to get involved in the Relay. There is still time.

Just a few of your extra dollars may be the ones needed to push for that cure we all so desperately want.

The Columbiana Relay will be held at the ballfields on McDow Road, and from what Linda has said about her plans, there will certainly be something for everyone.

And speaking of something for everyone, if you were not at Bernie’s on Main last week for the mystery dinner theater event to benefit the American Cancer Society, you certainly missed out on a great time.

The actors were tremendous, especially our own Mayor Allan Lowe, Police Chief Johnny Brown and the true drama queen (and it turns out, murderer) Miss Bonnie Atchison.

Dressed in a gold lounging jacket complete with wine glass and pipe, Mayor Lowe was Woody Hartland.

Walking around during the dinner hour, he told me, &uot;I’m supposed to be arrogant. How am I doing?&uot;

Thumbs up, Mayor.

The police chief was Frenchman Henri Van Ghant, a &uot;businessman.&uot; It turned out his business was smuggling arms in eastern Europe. He was great; but my table never even suspected him to be the murderer.

He just looked so innocent, good for a police chief, I guess.

Then there was Miss Bonnie as Mimi LeFleur. When it turned out she was the killer, I don’t believe it surprised anyone as much as it surprised her.

I tried to take her picture as she was handcuffed and led through the crowd; but I was laughing so hard, I didn’t even get one I could use.

Dressed in her red outfit with the red fringe and headband, Miss Bonnie, ever the actor, had her part memorized. She was great.

Those of you who had her as a teacher at Shelby County High School were always entertained, I’m sure. What a joy that must have been.

Others in the Have Mystery – Will Travel drama troupe included Tom Prince, Monica Bonet, Ryan Sievert, Kim Wray and director Lana Thompson.

They were all great, along with their fearless leaders, Sue Campbell and Will Sievert, both of whom lost their mothers to cancer.

&uot;We are honored to be here as a part of this fund-raising effort,&uot; Campbell said. &uot;You’ve got a wonderful community here.&uot;

Have Mystery – Will Travel is a local group which performs at holiday parties, company events, training seminars, family and class reunions, retirement parties, engagement parties, church, school and organizational fundraisers and more. They can be reached for other events at

The event was a great one with great food, fellowship among more than 100 guests and entertainment. And, best of all, it raised money for cancer research and education.

Some individuals from our community have already found ways to help in the effort to save the lives of those we love.

There is still time, this Friday, for others to do the same.

Candace Parker serves as news editor at the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at