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Victoria honors cancer survivors

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
June 5, 2011 at 1:05 a.m.
Updated June 6, 2011 at 1:06 a.m.

Wendi DuVall, 40, hugs fellow cancer survivors during an event sponsored by The Guardians of the Ribbon South Texas Chapter in honor of National Cancer Survivors Day.

National Cancer Survivors Day

Cancer Survivors Day is a national event held the first Sunday in June.

A cancer survivor is described as anyone living with cancer from the moment of diagnosis.

Guardians of the Ribbon South Texas Chapter slogan: "Cares enough to wear pink"

The Guardians' pink truck is representative of women with cancer, not breast cancer.

Guardians are made up of firefighters and police officers who help raise money and awareness for women fighting cancer.

For more information: www.ncsdf.org or Guardians of the Ribbon - South Texas Chapter on Facebook

With tears rolling down both cheeks, Teresa Mitchell stared at a pink fire engine parked along Main Street in downtown Victoria on Sunday afternoon.

On almost every part of the engine were notes from cancer survivors, and memorials of those who lost the battle written in black Sharpie marker.

"It definitely gives me hope to look at it," the 51-year-old Mitchell said, who signed the truck herself two months ago in the parking lot of Chick-fil-A.

In December, Mitchell was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

Almost immediately following the diagnosis, Mitchell lost her job and medical insurance and has not been able to continue with treatment.

"I don't know what stage it's in because I can't afford the tests I need. If I could afford health insurance, I'd get it," Mitchell said, wiping away tears. "I've been fighting this since January, but I'm at a standstill. Who's to say where the cancer is in my body now?"

Mitchell said she's in chronic pain, and finding another job has been difficult. She said she spends hours every day researching doctors, treatments, cancer organizations and other forms of assistance, so she can get the necessary tests to stave off the cancer.

"It's just not fair," she said. "It shouldn't be this difficult."

But that's why Mitchell draws hope from the autographed pink fire truck, she said.

"You see survivors on there. Not just one year, but 20-year survivors," Mitchell said. "I've got children and grandchildren I want to see grow up and get married."

Driven by local firefighters who volunteer with The Guardians of the Ribbon South Texas Chapter, the pink fire truck travels through Texas and Louisiana to cancer related events to help raise awareness and support for women fighting cancer.

And since Sunday was Cancer Survivors Day, The Guardians - dressed in matching pink firefighter suits - drove the truck downtown for a community-wide celebration honoring cancer survivors.

"I wasn't going to miss this," Mitchell said.

About 200 people attended Victoria's first Cancer Survivors Day celebration, which honored guests with pink drinks, pink cake and other special giveaways for cancer survivors. The event was emceed by Rafael "Ricky" De La Garza, who recognized about 20 cancer survivors attending the event.

"We support all cancer survivors, male or female," De La Garza said.

Wendell Geigle, Victoria Fire Department firefighter and managing director of the South Texas Chapter Guardians and, said they are willing to assist area cancer patients with fundraising events when needed.

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