Cancer survivors count their precious years in increments — months, weeks, even days.

Four and a half years.

Seven and a half years.

Ten and a half years.

For Ines Waggoner, it’s been five and a half years of living past cancer.

“You don’t take life for granted anymore,” she said.

Ines was one of the survivors proudly carrying the banner at the Relay for Life Friday night at Community Park. They marched around the walking path to the sound of cheering crowds, people who had gathered to help raise money for cancer research, and some of whom were dedicated enough to spend the night at the park.

Ann Tanner, 42, has survived her breast cancer 11 1/2 years — the same number of years her son, Colton, has been alive. The doctors suspect that her pregnancy helped them spot the lump early enough to save her life.

“He kept me going,” she said, crying softly. “He’s my little hero.”

The survivors club is a community within a community. They see each other at least once a year, and check up on one another through friends and family.

Sitting in some nearby bleachers, Charles and Evelyn Harrison caught up with Terry Tate and his mother, Janice Bailey, as they have for nearly a decade of Relays for Life.

After Charles finished his treatments, he and Evelyn became volunteers for Road to Recovery, which drives patients to their out-of-town treatments. That’s how they came to know Terry and his mother.

“It’s been a pleasure in several ways,” Evelyn explained, pointing out the good friends they’ve made, and have been able to keep in contact with over the years.

Helen Bailey, Loyce Wilburn, and Idapearl Reynolds caught up at a celebratory dinner before their walk. Bailey and Reynolds are cousins, and they’re all friends. Wilburn and Reynolds are eight-year survivors. Bailey is going on nine years.

They boasted about how much money their church, East Side Church of Christ, has raised for cancer, and they shared the secrets of their survival: Faith in God and early detection.

“It was devastating at first, but if you catch it early you can survive,” Reynolds said.

Jimmy Alexander, a five-and-a-half-year survivor, and his wife, Margaret, enjoyed a snack after their lap, watching the teams walk.

Jimmy said he doesn’t do anything differently since his brush with cancer. He was a teacher and coach in Frost before, and he is still working at both.

“I’m a true believer in God, I just kept going,” Jimmy said.

Margaret pointed out that they do one thing differently — regular screenings.

“I’ve always been aware of my health, I had to make him aware of his,” she said.

Charles Harrison was another one who tried to deny his health, over the objections of his doctor.

Charles and Evelyn Harrison are probably best known as Santa and Mrs. Claus because they throw massive Christmas festivals at their home every year.

However, when Charles was diagnosed on October, he refused treatment for nearly three months.

“He said, ‘no, I have to be Santa Claus,’” Evelyn said, glancing over at a red-cheeked Charles, who only grinned. “That’s how obstinate he is.”

Charles Harrison finally went in for surgery — on Dec. 26.

He’s been a survivor for 12 years now.

“Twelve years this month,” he said. “No half.”


Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at

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