Sue Yarck doesn't really believe she is much of an inspiration. But surviving cancer three times speaks for itself.
She attributes her survival to her positive attitude and lots of support from friends and family.
"I tend to laugh at the serious part of it because that is how I pull myself through," said Yarck, a Gainesville resident. "I have come to realize that I do have a purpose and that is why I am still here and I don't know if I've fulfilled that yet."
So after battling cancer three times, last year Yarck decided to get involved in Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
The overnight relay walk honors cancer survivors, those who have lost their battle with cancer and those who have offered support. The event begins at 7 p.m. and continues through the night until sunrise.
This year's Relay for Life will take place May 30 at Flowery Branch High School's football field.
"I really felt like this was my way to give back and get on a team and to help them out," she said. "Work with the planning for Relay ... last year I helped where I needed to help and this year I will really be working with the survivor end of it and the luminaries."
Yarck, who has two children and is married to Dan Yarck, has been in remission for nine years, but her last bout with the disease kept her at Emory University Hospital for three months and another three months recovering.
"They found a spot that was growing in my lung and they removed a part of that and I have been clear since then," she said. "The first time I had it was 25, 26 years ago. It was in '82 I was diagnosed. I had a modified radical mastectomy and I did not have chemo because they were not doing chemo back then."
It was eight years later that Yarck heard the bad news again.
"In 1990 it metastasized to my lungs," Yarck said. "So I had spots in both lungs and so then what they did was give me chemo for six months and at the end of that, it still had not taken all of it out.
"So my next resource was to have a bone marrow transplant and I was able to be my own donor (at Emory)."
Neighbor Gail Schneider said Yarck is truly an inspiration.
"My sister had ovarian cancer and ended up with leukemia and was actually looking at a bone marrow transplant," said Schneider, fundraising and volunteer coordinator at Challenged Child and Friends and also the co-chairwoman for Relay for Life. "She was an inspiration to my sister and to me because she had been through some of the same things and she is a wonderful and amazing success story of a bone marrow transplant."
Schneider's sister did not win her battle with cancer, which is what drives Schneider's commitment to helping Relay for Life.
"She lost her battle, but again that is just more of a reason for me," she said. "Our theme for Relay is celebrate, remember and fight back, and this is the fight back part. It makes you angry that you loose somebody to cancer, and to have an opportunity to find a cure is where you can focus that anger."
This year's Relay for Life will also feature a study called CPS-3. Participants between the age of 30 and 65 who have never had cancer may give a blood sample, "and if you are ever diagnosed with cancer they will be able to go back and use that blood work to possibly find a cure for cancer," Schneider said.
According to www.cancer.org, the invitation for the study requires that you have no personal history of cancer. Also, the ultimate goal is to enroll 500,000 adults from various racial/ethnic backgrounds from across the country. The study will help to better understand the lifestyle, behavioral, environmental and genetic factors that cause or prevent cancer and to ultimately eliminate cancer as a major health problem for this and future generations.
Yarck said environmental conditions possibly caused her problems, along with some types of mass-produced foods.
"I also have a brother that has had cancer three times," she said. "I grew up around steel mills in Indiana and some people we went to school with have died (from cancer).
"I really do think it has to do with the environment you live in, along with many other factors."