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May 3, 2014

‘It'll change your life’: Hundreds gather for cancer walk

For twelve years, Kelly Holmes' father and cancer survivor Roy Speegle participated in Relay for Life. After Roy passed away this February of lung cancer, Holmes said she and her family wanted to honor him by continuing the Relay tradition.

“We'll be doing it every year now,” Holmes said.

Holmes said her father always worked to provide for her and her four sisters.

The Speegle family honored their father, a construction worker, with a booth titled “building a heavenly home.”

Holmes said her father probably built most of Cullman.

“He read blueprints, not books, but he read blueprints better than anyone else could,” she said.

Holmes said that though her father was given only three years to live after his cancer diagnosis, he outlived that estimate by nearly a decade.

She credited the American Cancer Society, which sponsors Relay for Life, for its aid and research in the fight against cancer. Holmes added that her family would be earning money through fundraisers throughout the year for the American Cancer Society.

Holmes said that it had taken up more time than expected to prepare for the Relay. However, she said, all the preparation necessary was worth it.

“We are saving lives,” Holmes said.

“It'll change your life to be up here and see what it's for.”

Gary Hayes, a high school friend of Speegle's, came to pay his respects and remember Speegle at the family's tent. Hayes, also a survivor, has been cancer-free for the past ten years.

Hayes said that the advances in medicine have been increasingly helpful for patients like him.

“Something new comes out all the time,” Hayes said.

Sherri Tankersley, another cancer survivor, was diagnosed with throat cancer eight years ago. She was accompanied by her two children, Lauryn and Ben.

Sherri lost her mother to cancer, and said that she appreciated Relay for Life because of the hope she sees and the chance to remember friends and celebrate with children.

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