For Kory Tanner, taking part of Relay for Life is a time to come together and to remember that no one is ever alone when battling cancer.
“With everybody having busy lives these days, it’s the one time that we can catch up, share stories, laugh, hug and cry,” she says. “It just brings everybody back to that support and you realize how many people actually care.”
At 26, Tanner was still grappling with being a new mom to a one-year-old when she was diagnosed with stage three cervical cancer. She was told that if she wanted another child — this would be her last chance.
Within six months, she became pregnant and was able to carry her second son, Eric, to full-term as doctors monitored her cancer to make sure it didn’t spread.
“It was scary because you always wonder that if you have cancer and are pregnant, is your baby going to have cancer? Even though the doctors tell you that the chances are next to nothing, it’s still a thought that goes through your brain.”
After the delivery, the cancer was removed but that sense of relief was short-lived when she found out a marking on Eric’s skin was cancerous.
They had to wait until he was five years old to remove it and Tanner says it was a different experience as a mother watching him go through it, than when she went through it herself.
“They said it was just a birthmark on his wrist but it kept growing,” Tanner says. “It was horrible knowing that whole time and I was praying that it didn’t get worse before they could take it off.”
Tanner was persistent with monitoring as it reminded her of her mother’s skin cancer.
“Since I had gone through skin cancer with my mom, I already knew that spots change shape or grow and that it’s not a good sign. So, I just kept going back and getting them to check it.”
It wasn’t until Eric was almost two that the cancer was confirmed.
But not everyone in Tanner’s family is here to tell their story. Although her mom has survived, she’s lost three members to cancer and says that it’s had a huge impact on her life in many ways. Oftentimes, she couldn’t help feeling alone when dealing with cancer but decided her attitude needed to change so she could move her life forward.
By attending and volunteering Relay for Life for the past ten years, she walks to remember all those who have passed away, and to motivate those battling it. She says that when she was diagnosed, she thought she was going to die but seeing how many people cared really helped with becoming more optimistic about the journey.
“As with everybody, the minute you hear the word cancer you think you’re dead… and then it’s trying to find a better way of coping with it,” she says. “[It’s important] to accept that help and not go through it alone. Reach out and have that support in place.”
Now that her son is 30 years old and they’ve been cancer-free for over two decades, Tanner says that they will continue walking to show their support.
“I’ve been affected and touched by cancer so many times in my life… I’m heavily involved in putting an end to it so we don’t have to go through it again with family, friends or anyone else.”