On June 14th, bridesmaid runners will take over downtown Jacksonville. Runners will gather at 8 am in Duncan Park that day, wearing their favorite formal wear, paired with fashionable make-up and hair styles. Their one concession to the 1 mile run for the day? Tennis shoes instead of high heels.
The second annual The Longest Aisle Bridesmaids Mile is a fun and creative way for Relay for Life Team South Morgan/Premiere Bank to raise money to support the American Cancer Society. This local team, co-chaired by Carolyn White and Lacey Sorrill, is doing all that they can to support cancer research, prevention, and education efforts.
The Longest Aisle Bridemaids Mile is actually two races combined in one. The morning also offers a 5K run for those seeking a more rigorous race in athletic clothing. 5K runners will run through the South Jacksonville residential areas, using the same course utilized by the Family Fun Run. At the conclusion of the races, all participants will return to Duncan Park for a party with big prizes and several surprises.
Carolyn White first learned about Relay for Life four years ago after being diagnosed with kidney cancer. A friend told her about the organization’s efforts and invited her to join the survivor’s lap at the local Relay for Life event. Carolyn attended the survivor’s lap that year and appreciated the comrade and enthusiasm she found there. “Everyone knows someone touched by cancer,” Carolyn explains, and Relay for Life brings people together to do something concrete about it.
When people first hear that Carolyn is in remission for kidney cancer, they often look confused. People perceive kidney cancer as an affliction for older men and Carolyn fits neither of those categories. Carolyn experienced much of the same confusion at first, but found a wealth of information and support through the University of Iowa Cancer Oncology Program.
Support staff at the program helped Carolyn and her husband understand how cancer works, explaining aspects of the disease “we wouldn’t have known to ask about.” Carolyn is naturally inquisitive and found the University of Iowa program while seeking out additional information about her disease. She would like more people to know about the program, “an amazing place with great people.”
Helping others affected by cancer, whether it’s because they are currently fighting, in remission, a caregiver, or experiencing a loss of a loved one, is the main reason Carolyn became involved with the American Cancer Society. “I want people to be educated,” Carolyn explains. “I hope for a cure, I pray for a cure, but I’m a realist.”
Kidney cancer currently has no cure, but has benefitted from dedicated research to create ways to shrink tumors. Doctors were able to remove Carolyn’s tumor and she is currently in remission. Community and support remain essential for Carolyn’s recovery and she finds this through the Kidney Cancer Warriors group on Facebook, as well as through Relay for Life.
Carolyn calls the Facebook group, made up of individuals from across the country, “One of the greatest gifts of my life.” All participants have experienced the “emotions and mental games that cancer plays.” While social media has its negative aspects, Carolyn says, it also can “provide such an outlet for people who need it.”
A few years ago, a group of six women from the group, including Carolyn, decided to gather together for the weekend at one member’s North Carolina Beach house. Their first gathering was truly a “leap of faith,” but the participants soon “just fell in love.” The group talk all throughout their weekends and continue conversations online, supporting and praying with each other through “scanxiety” (anxiety over an upcoming scan) and other concerns.
Carolyn has also looked outside of herself to serve others and participate in her local community. Health concerns led to an early retirement two years ago, a necessary, but undesired change for Carolyn. She decided to invest her time and energy in volunteer pursuits and has loved the experience.
Besides co-chairing a local team and participating as the Tri-County Online Chair for Relay for Life, Carolyn divides her time between three additional organizations. She is a Faith Environment Coordinator at The Church of Our Savior, a volunteer with Girls on the Run, and a Dominican Associate, helping and serving the Dominican Sisters in Springfield.