JERSEY SHORE - This year's Relay For Life in Jersey Shore is being held in honor of nine-time cancer survivor Sandy Lownes.
"Sandy is a very caring and giving person. When we were told we could hold the Relay in honor of someone, we chose Sandy for all the hard work that she's done for the relay over the years," said Deborah Heydrich, co-chair of this year's Relay For Life of Jersey Shore.
Lownes' struggles with cancer began in 2001 when doctors diagnosed her with thyroid cancer.
"My emotions were on a constant roller coaster," Lownes said.
The following year, she found out she had colon cancer and began a six-month chemotherapy regimen. In 2003, she was diagnosed with liver cancer. In 2004, both Lownes and her sister were diagnosed with breast cancer within days of each other.
"We did a lot of talking on the phone to help each other through our chemo and radiation treatments. My sister lost her battle in 2006," Lownes said.
During the course of Lownes' breast cancer treatment, doctors discovered nodules on her lungs.
"I was really scared and didn't know what to do so we did a long haul of treatments," Lownes said.
After discovering another lump in her breast, she decided to have it removed in December of 2010.
An excellent support network helped Lownes through the hard times.
"I prayed a lot, cried a lot and talked to plenty of family, friends and neighbors.
We all need to hear the words 'I love you' from friends and family," Lownes said.
Lownes has been cancer-free for 2 1/2 years now.
"I have another chance at life. God is not ready for me to enter into heaven with him. I still have work down here on Earth to help other people survive cancer," said Lownes.
Lownes volunteers at Susquehanna Health Breast Health and Cancer Center to share her strength with other survivors. She also walks at several area Relay For Life events each year.
"If I can help one person get through cancer treatment with a positive attitude, I feel I am doing what is asked of me," Lownes said.
Optimism is one of Lownes' most powerful weapons in the fight against cancer.
"A positive attitude helps so much. Each day is a gift to enjoy and cherish. There is no time to waste. We need to find a cure," Lownes said.
Despite extreme trials, Lownes has cultivated an enduring sense of hope and resilience.
"Everyone calls me the Energizer Bunny because I keep going and going. I will keep fighting until I cannot fight anymore," Lownes said.
Lownes offered some words of wisdom and strength for those individuals who may be currently battling cancer.
"Keep a positive attitude. Listen to what doctors and your family and friends have to say. Let people help you. Take it one day at a time," Lownes said.
Lownes expressed gratitude to everyone on the Jersey Shore Relay For Life committee, the kind doctors at Susquehanna Health Center and loving nurses at the Cancer Center.
"I hope everyone comes out and supports this year's Relay For Life," Lownes said.
The theme for this year's relay is "Rocking Out Cancer" and will be held May 10 and 11 at Jersey Shore Area High School. The event kicks off at 2 p.m. and will begin at 6:30 p.m.
"We're doing a singing contest called 'Relay Idol' and there will be raffles and food vendors. It's kind of set up like a festival," Heydrich said.
The event organizers encourage the community to come out and support a good cause.
"Your donations are helping local people," Heydrich said.
Cancer is so Limited
By Sandy Lownes
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot cripple love
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot destroy confidence
It cannot shut out memories
It can invade the soul
It cannot silence courage
It cannot destroy God's peace
It cannot steal God's gift of eternal life
It cannot conquer the spirit
And it cannot cripple God's love
WHAT: Relay For Life of Jersey Shore.
WHEN: 2 p.m. May 10 to 2 p.m. May 11.
WHERE: Jersey Shore Area High School track.