The Power of One

Published 9:34 am Friday, November 6, 2009

Linda Wren experienced a life changing moment in December 1993 when she heard the dreaded words –– breast cancer.

“I felt like my breath was just sucked out of me,” said Wren.

The next few months are a blur to Wren today: having her radical mastectomy and reconstruction; learning the cancer had spread to 13 of her lymph nodes; enduring six months of chemotherapy and one month of radiation. Wren and her husband Jim were both employed at BellSouth. The support she received was overwhelming, but she needed more.

Wren reached out to the American Cancer Society and found a support group for breast cancer survivors.

Bosom Buddies became a lifeline to her. She was among women who understood her questions and fears.

There came a time when Wren wanted to give back to the ACS. The Bosom Buddies became a “Relay for Life” team, raising money for ACS. In 2000, Wren was asked to start a Relay in Columbiana.

She called on her friends who live near her home in Shelby Shores on Lay Lake, and the River Rats was formed. There were three Relay teams that year and $11,555 was raised for ACS. For the last decade, the Columbiana Relay has expanded to become the American Cancer Society Relay of Life for South Shelby County, encompassing Wilsonville, Vincent, Shelby, Chelsea, Harpersville, and of course the River Rats. More than $645,000 has been raised for cancer research, an amazing feat.

One River Rat and friend Judy Quick was impressed by how Wren got the River Rats together, as well as organizing the women of Culture Club to sell purple bows to support the ACS.

“She inspires me,” said Quick.

That deep inspiration led Quick to nominate Wren for the American Cancer Society’s Life Inspiration Award, which Wren won this year. Wren is quick to say the Relays are not her relays.

“I give credit to the volunteers, survivors, and sponsors for the money, time and heart that have made the events possible,” she said.

However, every success starts with a commitment, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars that have been raised for cancer research as well as the awareness toward cancer can be contributed to the Power of One, one woman who decided to make a difference.

“I feel much like other cancer survivors: I’m not glad I had cancer, but I am glad for the way it changed the direction of my life,” Wren said.

Phoebe Donald Robinson can be reached by e–mail at