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Ready to walk for Relay

POSTED: May 15, 2007 5:02 a.m.

The numbers only reveal part of the story in Rayne Highsmith’s life.

For 17 years, she worked in retail before finding her dream job as a branch library manager. For seven years, she’s managed the Effingham branch library. And for 12 years she’s been cancer free, having been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 42.

For seven years, she’s been attending the annual Relay for Life, which starts Friday night and runs through Saturday at Effingham County High School.

“It blows you away,” she said of the event.

She attended her first Relay for Life out of curiosity and has been returning ever since.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said about the range of people who attend, children to seniors.

Highsmith was diagnosed with breast cancer unexpectedly.

“I didn’t feel a lump or anything,” she said.

Her doctor noticed a suspicious area in her annual mammogram. Further tests revealed that she had cancer.

Treatment included a lumpectomy followed by six months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation.

The cheerful Highsmith laughed when asked about undergoing treatment.

“Not fun,” she described.

She also suffered a painful burn from the radiation. As the chemotherapy progressed, she started to feel like a zombie.

“I didn’t lose all my hair,” she added with a laugh.

However, her cancer went into remission, where it has remained over the years.

And yes, the thought of the cancer returning does sit in the back of her mind, but it doesn’t consume her.

“I’m not scared. I have peace with it,” Highsmith said.

Her reason for continually attending the Relay for Life is simple.

“For the moral support and to support others,” she replied.

She has been able to talk with library patrons who have been diagnosed. They compare notes and ask her questions. She encourages them to attend the annual event, as well.

“They really need that support group,” she explained of cancer patients and survivors.

When she battled cancer her family was her biggest support source. Her husband and teen daughter at the time were her caregivers.

“They treated me like royalty,” she beamed.

In addition, her mother had previously fought breast cancer and won. So, she could relate to Highsmith in her ordeal.
She credits her family and her faith with helping to get her through her struggle.

Highsmith will be attending Friday night’s event with her husband, who she said always walks the caregiver lap. She also will read a poem, something she has done for the past three years or so.

The poem entitled “Every Candle Has a Name” by John Storey is read just before the Luminaria program of the event.

Highsmith has come away from her fight against cancer with a clearer outlook on life and a greater appreciation for it.

She advises, “Don’t put things off. Appreciate the people around you and just know each day you live is a gift from God.”

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