Hope filled the hearts of those dealing with sarcoma, breast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer and the list goes on and on during the 2019 Walk for Hope held at Halifax County Fairgrounds on Saturday.

It was a day of fundraising that raised $64,382.39 for the Halifax County Cancer Association, according to Sharon Blosser, director, but more importantly, it let those dealing with cancer know they are not alone.

With T-shirts, sashes and banner, the families and friends of those affected by cancer showed them they had their back.

“It’s wonderful,” said Jo Francis, who is battling her second bout with endometrial sarcoma and had an entourage of supporters wearing yellow and blue sarcoma T-shirts and bandanas.

As she joined the cancer survivors, her family and friends along with dozens of others there to support their loved one cheered her on.

“It gives you an overwhelming feeling of hope,” said Francis, who needs that support now more than ever.

She was first diagnosed with cancer in May of 2016, and after a hysterectomy and 42 biopsies, doctors said she was cancer free.

But when she returned for her three-year check up, her doctor found a tumor – the sarcoma had returned.

She’s been told it’s incurable and is taking chemotherapy to treat it as a stable disease.

“It was heart breaking (to hear the sarcoma had returned),” said Francis. “But, I have God on my side, and I refuse to let cancer control my life. I give God all the praise and glory.”

During this trying time, she has not only had the love and support from her family and friends, but she also has received help from the association for food and gas when she has her doctor’s visits.

Even though she’s still working, she often has to miss time for appointments.

For her, the cancer association continues to give financially and provides encouragement. She also said it shouldn’t take individuals having cancer to move them to come out and support the cancer association.

“I just love the cancer association,” said Francis, who has been supporting the association for four years.

Others like Theodore Bristol, who had prostate cancer, have been supporting the association for even longer.

This was the 15th annual Walk for Hope, and Bristol has been supporting the cancer association for nine years.

He was told in 2010 that he had prostate cancer and also bone cancer. But, it turned out he was misdiagnosed.

If it hadn’t been for the cancer association’s support group he was meeting with at the time, he may not have received a second opinion.

He and his wife attended the support group regularly and were told that he should visit a cancer center in Philadelphia. Doctors there told him the issues he was having with his neck was due to arthritis, not cancer.

Over time the support group disintegrated, and Bristol and his wife agreed they would like to see cancer survivors and cancer patients begin to meet again.

Even still, he is grateful for all help the cancer association provides for those dealing with cancer. He has received gas vouchers and help with purchasing his medicine.

“I support them. They have helped a lot, and it’s a chance for me to see other survivors. And, everyone has to have faith,” said Bristol.

The family of the late Leonora “Raye” Harrison, who was well known among the cancer survivors support group, continues to share faith and support in her memory.

Harrison passed away in May of 2016 after battling ovarian cancer for seven years.

“She never told me to the extent that the cancer association was helping her… I would’ve done more,” said her cousin, Melinda Hill. “Those who attended the survivors' support group with her had the most amazing things to say about her. She would lift others in her time of despair.”

Hill along with Harrison’s sister, Aileen Harrison, and other family members including Faye Smith, Destinee Guthrie, Yvonne Tilghman and Doreen Guthrie wore teal, raised funds and walked in their family member’s memory.

Harrison always attended the cancer walk, and now it’s her family’s turn to help others through her.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” said Hill.

Even though the goal of $80,000 has not been met yet, Blosser said she expects more funds to come in during the days ahead.

Jennifer Nichols raised the most funds collecting $1,951, and she along with Jason Studley, president of Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital, Mitzi McCormick, president of Halifax County Chamber of Commerce, Carl Espy, town manager for the town of Halifax, and Virginia state trooper David Clark kissed a pig to celebrate.

Ashley Hodge reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com

Ashley Hodge is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com