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Survivor Dinner features Carrie Rickman

The American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life of Franklin County held the 2019 Cancer Survivor Dinner April 23 at the A.W. Todd Center in Russellville.

Larry and Janice Dover coordinated this year’s event, and entertainment was provided by the trio Three Strong. Carrie Rickman, a breast cancer survivor, was the featured guest speaker.

Rickman’s mother passed away from pancreatic cancer five weeks after Rickman’s second child was born. Her father was also diagnosed with cancer but was accepted into a medical trial, and is doing better. Her sister was recently diagnosed with cancer and is in treatment, and her numbers have since improved.

“My mother had the best laugh,” said Rickman. “She laughed often and loud. She kept a closet of gifts just in case anybody needed a pick-me-up. She has guided me and given me strength to stand through my own journey, which began in June 2018 when I found out I had Stage 1 cancer and was told there was a 98 percent cure rate.

“I’m a fighter, just like my mom and dad. My diagnosis made me redefine the impossible.”

Anna Duncan, whose mother is a 10-year cancer survivor, is community development manager for the American Cancer Society. “We served more than 200 survivors this year,” Duncan said. “We would like to thank our Survivor Dinner sponsor, Community Spirit Bank, for providing a wonderful meal, as well as their employees for serving. We are truly a community of hope.”

Special thanks were also extended to Annette Oliver and the A.W. Todd Center, City of Russellville and Mayor David Grissom, Fourth Street Grill, Blue Door Bakery and the Franklin County Board of the American Cancer Society for each of their contributions to the evening’s success.

Duncan said the American Cancer Society exists because of 13 people getting together and deciding that something had to be done about cancer. She said there is more hope than ever for surviving cancer and more resources to help people along the way.

Duncan mentioned Hope Lodge, a place in Birmingham for cancer patients who live a certain distance away to stay with a caregiver for free while receiving treatment. She said in the past two years, cancer patients from Franklin County have been given 1,627 nights of free lodging – a savings of $244,000 – “just one tiny part of the services the American Cancer Society provides.”

Russellville Public Library director Ashley Cummins attended the dinner with her grandparents. “My first experience with the survivor dinner was attending as the guest of a library patron,” Cummins said. “My grandmother died of cancer, and my grandfather is a cancer survivor. I’m now on the event committee for the Relay for Life. It’s all very personal for me.”

Attendees were told about the May 3 inaugural 1 Table Community Picnic to Fight Cancer as part of the 2019 Relay for Life. This year’s event will be in memory of Joey Oden, a long-time dedicated event leader and team captain of Relay for Life.

The event will be held in the Russellville High School stadium. Activities will start at 6 p.m., with a welcome and Community 1 Table Picnic. The public is invited to bring food and drink and attend. The opening ceremony will be at 7:15 p.m., followed by recognition of survivors, caregivers and teams.

The Woodalls will perform at 8 p.m., and awards and a candlelight luminary service will be at 9 p.m.

Luminaries may be purchased from a Relay for Life team or from the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce.

For cancer information 24 hours a day, call 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.