The American Cancer Society Relay For Life gives communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease. Each year, more than 4 million people take part in this global fundraiser. The event in Marathon takes place at Marathon Community Park and begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 1 and runs through 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 2. Here are three local stories of survival.
Cathy McKoy, Bone and lung cancer survivor
“Today is a good day,” said the ever-peppy, ever-optimist Cathy McKoy, while fighting her stage four bone cancer, which metastasized into her lungs. Her spunk hasn’t faded even though her energy has. “Cancer has no rhyme or reason, it can happen to anyone,” she said, explaining that her once very active, very involved lifestyle may be on the backburner for now, but not for long.
McCoy said she’s excited to see all the friendly and familiar faces at Friday’s Relay for Life, where she will be celebrated as the honorary survivor of the evening. She already has her Glinda the Good Witch costume for the “Wizard of Odds” themed event, which she will pair with a medical mask. Diagnosed two years ago with bone cancer, the Marathon resident is now battling lung cancer with chemotherapy. But she still wants people to come over, give her hugs, and talk to her — the isolation is one of the hardest things about being sick, she said.
She flies out to Texas April 11 for more scans and to shrink the nodules on her lungs. “The weird thing is, my lungs feel fine,” she said.
“No one expected me to live the first time,” she said, “but, God isn’t finished with me, yet.”
Ted Violissi, Eye cancer survivor
“I had two choices – be one good looking corpse, or a one-eyed guy – but, I’m the best looking one-eyed guy in Marathon,” said Ted Violissi after squamous cell carcinoma cancer took his right eye last May. “I’d like to say my eye has super powers, but all I gained was a little more peripheral vision, which lets me see a lot of my nose … that annoys me.”
He plans on making an appearance Friday night at the park for Relay for Life, probably with his 17-year-old son, Teddy, who in the past has been involved with the Marathon High School team.
“This community is amazing,” he said. “There was so much help and support while I was going through my treatments, I was just able to focus on recovery.”
At a fundraiser last September, a friend brought 150 eye patches to the party and passed them out to the guests. “After a while, everyone was walking around with them on top of their foreheads,” he said. “They were saying they weren’t sure how I can do it.”
He does it with no depth perception and an equilibrium problem, but boasted he can still beat Chase Grimes in the local dart league.
Charlotte Quinn, Breast cancer survivor
Charlotte Quinn — a.k.a. Dorothy — can barely contain her excitement about this weekend’s Relay For Life. As the chairperson for the event, she can’t wait for the “big reveal” when the park is transformed into the Emerald City to fit the “The Wizard of Odds” theme.
She’s been “clean” since 2005 when she beat down the breast cancer that initially appeared in 2002. And Quinn has been very involved with Relay since she moved to Marathon in 2004, even chairing the event 11 years ago.
“It finances treatments and research,” she said. “Without research, we’ll never find a cure.”
She said a lot of people have the misconception that the money raised by Relay doesn’t stay in the Keys, but said that is far from the truth. As a former chairperson of American Cancer Society, she says the funds go to local cancer patients who use Road To Recovery for transportation needs for long trips to Miami, and to Look Good…Feel Better, another program designed to restore patients’ self-confidence with their looks after chemotherapy and radiation.
“Most importantly, we have a lot of survivors in our community, and many are still here because of the research money donated from events like Relay For Life,” said Quinn. “I pray in my lifetime there will be a cure.”
7 p.m.: Opening Ceremonies
7:15 p.m.: Survivor Lap
7:20 p.m.: Caregiver Lap
7:25 p.m.: Relay Starts
9 p.m.: Luminary celebration
10:30 p.m.: Zumba
12:30-5 a.m.: Team socials
5 a.m.: Yoga led by Kathy Simpson
7 a.m.: Closing Ceremonies
Also, the Coast Guard is having a dunking booth, “Sink a Coastie.” Keys Strength is having a rowing machine and challenge the trainers booth, Marathon Veterinary Hospital is having a pet luminary walk, and there will be ongoing corn hole games.