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Stories are the secret to this weekend’s “Tell Cancer Off’

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My mother is a breast-cancer survivor. My stepfather — the man who turned out to be the best dad imaginable for a young girl longing for a hero in her life — lost his battle to liver cancer in 2007.

Those details don’t even touch upon the aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends in my circle who have had to listen to — and battle through —the terrifying phrase “you have cancer.”

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1.5 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed this year, so my experiences are hardly unique. With numbers like that, it is no surprise that most Americans are more closely acquainted with this disease than they ever hoped to be.

But this war is far from over.

On Saturday, from 2-10 p.m. at Storytelling Park in downtown Jonesborough, our local Relay for Life will kick off its fourth year in Tennessee’s oldest town. Part fundraiser, part celebration, part memorial, Jonesborough’s Relay for Life has adopted a special theme for the event — “Tell Cancer Off” — and it may turn out to be the best weapon yet.

While funds raised by ACS will continue to go towards groundbreaking research, hands-on treatment options and much needed assistance for many cancer patients — all incredibly important categories — the volunteers in Jonesborough have also come to recognize the power found in stories.

And they want to capture and preserve them.

So this weekend men, women and perhaps even a few children, will be sharing their stories with others via a video recorder provided by Relay. They’ll share tales of heartbreak and exhilaration. They’ll share memories of deep love and overwhelming support.

And over and over again will be the story of a special type of courage that defies all odds.

We here at the Herald & Tribune would like to encourage each and every one of you to take time to stop by Saturday’s Relay for Life event. We guarantee it will not only be life-changing, but also uplifting.

You may hear some of the stories at the “Tell Your Story” site. Others may be heard at booths, on benches and around tables.

But we promise you, each will be powerful — in a way we might not yet fully understand, but powerful nonetheless. And each should be shared, again and again.

Think we can’t do anything about cancer? On Saturday, help “Tell Cancer Off” and turn something designed to divide and conquer, into something we together can defeat.

Lisa Whaley