Father's death inspired Goliad Relay for Life

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Feb. 19, 2012 at 10:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 18, 2012 at 8:19 p.m.

Volunteers work in an assembly-line fashion to put together lunches of chicken, Spanish rice and beans. The  Sunday event raised money for the Goliad County Relay for Life.

Volunteers work in an assembly-line fashion to put together lunches of chicken, Spanish rice and beans. The Sunday event raised money for the Goliad County Relay for Life.   Jonathan Hinderliter for The Victoria Advocate

When Pat Edwards' father, Alfred Mucalla, died from prostate cancer eight years ago, she vowed to champion cancer research and survival.

The year following Mucalla's death, Edwards secured the help of her hometown and launched Goliad County's first Relay for Life event.

"This is our seventh year. We've probably raised over $400,000 since we started," she said.

Edwards and her husband, Kenneth, served as co-chairs Sunday for the Relay for Life barbecue fundraiser, where a team of volunteers at the Goliad County Fairgrounds served about 1,000 barbecue chicken plates-to-go for $7.

Cars drove through the fairgrounds from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m to support the March 31 Relay for Life event at the Goliad Courthouse Square.

Relay for Life, a 12-hour event that honors cancer patients and raises money for research, starts at 6 p.m. and concludes at 6 a.m. the following day.

"It will be fun. We've got live entertainment, games and a cake walk," Edwards, 62, said.

Each year, as Edwards helps raise money for cancer, she remembers her father's battle with the disease.

"His cancer was in remission for three years, but it came back and it was found in his lungs and bones," she said.

But Edwards' father wasn't the only experience she's had with family members battling cancer.

Edwards' sister was diagnosed in 1999 with cervical cancer after a pap smear showed up abnormal. For six weeks, Edwards said, she cared for her sister while she went through chemotherapy and radiation.

Edwards' mother was later diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. And in November 2010, Edwards was diagnosed with skin cancer after visiting the doctor about a patch of skin on her forearm that continued to discolor.

"I thought it was an age spot," she said. "My doctor told me it was an insect bite, but, to be safe, she wanted me to see a skin doctor."

After a biopsy and surgery to remove the cancer from her arm, Edwards said, she is cancer free and did not require post-surgical treatment.

With so many of Edwards' family members diagnosed with cancer - about six altogether - they, too, are motivated to take part in Relay for Life.

"My mother and sister participate in Relay for Life. They will walk in the caregivers' lap and the survivor's lap," she said. Debbie Bego, 54, who volunteered at Sunday's fundraiser and serves as club manager for the Stampede 4-H Relay for Life team, is also assisting with money-raising efforts for the March event.

For $10, Relay for Life supporters can post photos on a 4 x 8 plywood board, honoring those who've been diagnosed with cancer.

"We have a Wall of Honor where people display photos of survivors," and those who've passed away, Bego said. "We have an 'In honor of' and 'In memory of' section on the board."

The Wall of Honor is illuminated during Relay for Life, and remains on display for several days following the event.

"Last year, you could see the names of the people all the way from the street," Bego said.

Money collected Sunday and during Relay for Life will go to the American Cancer Society to raise money for cancer research and advocacy.

Though Edwards' father isn't around to experience the years of success generated by the Goliad Relay for Life, she knows he'd appreciate his daughter's tireless efforts to fight for a cure.

"I think he would be proud" of what we're doing, she said. "It's helping other people."



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