Cancer survivors have one very important thing in common: an affinity for life.

Cancer survivors have one very important thing in common: an affinity for life.

Sure there are other things that bond them, like chemotherapy port scars, high medical bills and a host of memories that are hard to share, but the appreciation for their lives is the most profound and deepest seeded.

“It taught me to love my life,” said Trace Sills, a 30-year-old melanoma survivor. “It taught me to cherish my friends. It taught me that my support system with my family and my friends is beyond measure.”

Carthage Relay for Life celebrated this resilient group of people at their annual Survivors’ Dinner Thursday night as a predecessor to the June 2 Relay for Life walk that will take place in Carthage’s Central Park. The 17-hour walk raises money to help the American Cancer Society continue cancer research and provide support to cancer patients.

Cancer survivors of all ages came to celebrate their victory, one as young as 4 years old all the way to several over 30 years in remission.

The gym of Carthage’s First Baptist Church was a panoply of colorful board game decorations to fit this year’s theme ‘Don’t Play Games with Cancer.’ The whimsical decor, complete with live goldfish at the Go Fish table, emphasized the fact that this was ultimately an opportunity for survivors to rejoice in their victory over a deadly disease.

“A big part of Relay is the celebration of the survivors,” said event coordinator Kathy Hill. “They give hope to others who are going through the same thing.”

Thursday’s dinner was for anyone affected by cancer, be it a former patient, current patient or caretaker, to come together in a community. Teresa Roberts, a colon cancer survivor, and Cindy Wilson, a breast cancer survivor, laughed together as they remembered the effects of their chemotherapy and griped together over the astronomically high prices of treatment. As Traci Sills cried while she talked about realizing there are no drugs to help melanoma, no less than five other people in the audience wiped their eyes with her.

“This event is about realizing that pulling together as a family isn’t just about their own family—it’s about the whole Relay Family,” Hill said. “That’s the great thing about Relay, it’s a whole support system.”

Many survivors say the most effective way to deal with cancer is to stay positive.

“ I am positive because I can’t be anything else,” Sills said. “I can either choose to put my head in the sand and cry all day, or I can run with it. I can advocate. I can educate. I can tell people ‘get checked out and you could save your life.’”