Two of the many cancer survivors arriving at the Palmyra High School gym June 7 for the 2019 Marion County Relay For Life shared a special reason to celebrate – they are 29-year survivors.

Two of the many cancer survivors arriving at the Palmyra High School gym June 7 for the 2019 Marion County Relay For Life shared a special reason to celebrate – they are 29-year survivors.

Linda Stutheit of Durham and John Myers of Hannibal shared their victorious stories as more cancer survivors, caregivers and supporters gathered in the gym. Both survivors attended the High Hopes support group at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Hannibal prior to construction of Hannibal Regional Hospital.

Myers thought he had stomach flu and went to see his good friend, the late Dr. Porter, who told him his temperature was 103.5 and sent him to the hospital. A tumor had penetrated his colon and spread into his lymph nodes. He was given a year to live after his first surgery.

When he had a second surgery, “they removed my whole colon,” he said. He was told he might live one to two years. He proved the doctors wrong, declaring, “Only one person – God – can tell you how long you've got.”

He has since developed other health problems, involving his heart, diabetes and kidneys, but not cancer, he said.

Stutheit had an easier recovery after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Her treatments were all at the University Hospital in Columbia. In the beginning, a doctor told her, “Get your act together. Things ain't looking good.”

She had surgery and radiation but no chemo, and has been cancer-free since then, she said. She has attended Reach to Recovery meetings, which meets in many counties.

She credits her recovery to family support. “I had a great support team at the University Hospital,” she said.

Before the survivors lap launched the Relay For Life, the people were told that Marion County is among the best supporters of cancer research in Missouri.

Kathryn McDaniel, senior community development manager with the American Cancer Society, was pleased with the large number of participants.

The Flower Children team of Palmyra is ranked eighth in the entire nation as a team, she said.

Marion County's Relay For Life is also ranked high in the country, because of its fundraising efforts. “It is ranked high per capita for fundraising dollars for a county of this size,” McDaniel said. “I am proud of all the efforts (by county residents) with all the natural disasters occurring, like the Mississippi flooding.”

Event speaker Andy Strauss said he lost his college roommate to leukemia and lost his father-in-law to cancer. Now his mother has been diagnosed.

The Relay For Life was at the high school because of wet conditions at the usual Palmyra location, Flower City Park.

A group of four Patriot Riders arrived for the flag ceremony and later joined the people walking laps.

A silent auction was led by Jimmy Latta of the Kings and Queens team.

The Flower Children of Palmyra had the most members at the time teams were photographed.

Another big group was the JECCC (James E. Cary Cancer Center) team.

The Twisted Angels team included people of all ages.

Luminaries were being sold to honor cancer victims and survivors, and 200 had been sold before the opening lap around the gym.

A 50-foot inflatable obstacle course competition between Hannibal and Palmyra groups was held in the gym. Palmyra won the race and was awarded with a traveling trophy.

As of Sunday, June 9, $75,000 had been raised by the Marion County Relay For Life, McDaniel said. All the proceeds had yet to be collected.

See photo gallery for more pictures of the Relay For Life.

bev.darr@courierpost.com