By Adam Smith
The North Jefferson News
This year’s North Jefferson Relay for Life will have a special significance to a Fultondale woman.
The event, held Friday at the Kenneth A. Clemons Athletic Complex on Fieldstown Road, has selected Dorothy Byrd as an honorary chairperson.
Byrd, 71, is the director of the Fultondale Senior Center. She’s also a cancer survivor.
She was diagnosed in September 2004 with breast cancer. In October of that year, she began chemotherapy. In January 2005, she underwent a double-mastectomy, followed by more chemotherapy and 35 radiation treatments.
When asked what her reaction was after hearing the cancer diagnosis, she said “the word is just scary.”
“I had good support and the people around me were just wonderful,” she said. “I snapped out of it quickly and depended on my faith.”
Byrd is now cancer free, but has to take a daily medication. She is also checked for cancer every two weeks, a process she’ll endure for the rest of her life.
As a tribute to her own cancer survival and to pay tribute to others who have battled cancer, Byrd and members of the senior center formed a Relay for Life team. The team, Dorothy’s Angels, is made up of 12 senior center members including Byrd’s husband, Bobby Byrd. Other team members include Barbara and Cecil Ingram, Harvey Dial, Glenn and Gladys Black, Lily Pruitt, Don Wood, Margaret Newman and Billie Best.
Dorothy Byrd said she appreciates the opportunity to be the event chairperson this year and looks forward to next week’s event. As part of her chairperson duties, she will also speak at the opening ceremony and at a survivor’s dinner.
“It’s wonderful to see all those people out there that care,” she said. “It’s a very exciting thing and it can be very emotional.”
Relay for Life co-chair Teresa Vise said Byrd’s story of survival made her the ideal honorary chairperson for this year’s event.
“It’s great to find someone who has a person story, not just of surviving, but one of inspiration. Dorothy is definitely one of those people,” Vise said. “You find strong people in the community every day, but you have no idea how deep the river is.”
At least 23 teams have signed up to participate in this year’s event, which is an increase over last year. In addition to the 12-hour walk event, there will also be games and activities for children. Live entertainment will include Back in Time, the Generations Band, Abriel Mullins and an Elvis tribute artist.
Vise said this year’s goal is about $47,000. However, $33,000 has already been raised. Ninety-six percent of all donations go to the operations of the American Cancer Society, which includes cancer research.
“We just want people to come out, have fun and make a difference,” Vise said. “It’s in Gardendale, but it’s a true north Jefferson event.”
For more information on this year’s Relay for LIfe, visit www.relayforlife.org/northjefferson or contact Vise at 337-1629.