WEST JEFFERSON-“Cancer sucks,” said Trey Simmons.
The Ashe County High math instructor didn’t mince words in describing his three-year long battle with the ghastly disease that has already taken the life of his father and has thoroughly tested his mother when she received a similar diagnosis years later.
Simmons, whose hearty voice echoed off the bleachers of the high school’s football stadium, was selected as the featured speaker for Friday’ Relay for Life walkathon event.
During his uplifting charge to survivors and those still fighting, Simmons solicited support and not pity, and he encouraged others to do the same in not being afraid to reach out to their loved ones when times become treacherous.
Friday’s Relay for Life night long fundraiser is a cornerstone event for the organization and is held annually under the bright lights of the football stadium following the opening survivor’s lap and lighting of the lumineers.
Money raised from the event goes toward a variety of causes to fight cancer and the residual effects of the disease. Mission, the “Look Good, Feel Better” image enhancer program for those going through chemotherapy and general cancer research are the primary beneficiaries, according to Relay Community Manager Kerry Phillips.
“We’re so thankful for your support,” she said to those gathering around the track prior to the all night walk extravaganza.
Tammy Marsh then spoke to the audience on the progress made in fighting to end cancer.
“Everyone here is here for the same reason…to put an end to cancer,” said Marsh.
“Each one (of you) that is beating the odds is a true inspiration to others. Beating cancer won’t be easy, but it is possible.”
The evening turned personal when Simmons recounted his experience with cancer.
His father passed away when he was 10 years old due to lung cancer leaving his mother to carry the weight.
Simmons’ mother was later diagnosed with cancer, but after 33 radiation treatments she remains cancer free.
Simmons was diagnosed with melanoma in October of 2013. He beat it within a month, but the disease returned this previous fall.
“I never expected to be one of the statistics,” he said.
Today, after undergoing an experimental treatment plan, his tumors are shrinking.
“You may see me struggle, you may see me stumble and fall, but one thing you won’t see is me give up,” he said.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.