Cancer survivors and their supporters gathered Sunday evening for a reception at Kahlmus Auditorium to celebrate life.

Gina Conner, survivor activity chairperson for Lauderdale County, said it was the survivors’ holiday.

“It is great to bring the survivors together today, especially since it happens to be National Cancer Survivor’s Day,” Conner said.

The reception included tables for cancer survivors to register in the Lauderdale County database of cancer survivors and receive helpful information from their sponsors, Jeff Anderson Regional Cancer Center and the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

“The purpose of the reception is to get the survivors registered, prepared for the Relay on Friday and to kick-off our ‘Paint the Town Purple’ campaign,” Conner said.

The Honorary Chairperson, Sam Long, was the keynote speaker for the reception. Long is a cancer survivor from Meridian. He also wrote a song about his colon cancer to raise money for the American Cancer Society entitled, “Colonoscopy.”

“I had colon cancer five years ago and wanted to help others who have cancer, so I wrote this humorous song to raise money,” Long said.

Celeste and Fred Eggerton of Enterprise were at Sunday’s reception. They have been moving to the Lauderdale County area since Hurricane Katrina hit last August. The Eggertons are both lung cancer survivors who are looking forward to helping in the Lauderdale County Relay For Life event Friday.

“We were treated at Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center before they had the Cancer Center, but I hope to help out more next year than this year,” Celeste said. “It is just some days you have more strength than other days and that has slowed our moving down as well.”

Fred said the only difference between the Lauderdale County and Enterprise Relays are their sizes.

“Enterprise had their Relays at the Archusa Lake, and this one is at the football stadium,” Fred said. “Everything is relaxed and slow paced in Enterprise but not here in Lauderdale County.”

Other special guests attending the reception were representatives from Nov Artis Oncology, Dillard’s department store, Jeff Anderson Cancer Center and the American Cancer Society. Refreshments were provided by Hot ‘N’ Fresh sub shop and McAllister’s Deli.

“The community has been good about donating food and door prizes, we can’t thank them enough,” Conner said.

Last year’s reception was held at the Holiday Inn Northeast, according to Conner, and there was standing room only, which prompted the move to Kahlmus Auditorium at Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus.

Friday night’s relay activities will begin with the survivors photograph made at 6:30 p.m. and then they will make the first lap around the track at 7 p.m. According to Conner, every survivor present Friday will receive a medallion. “In Memory of” and “Survivor” luminaries will be sold throughout the night for $10.

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