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Local Teams Gather For Annual Cancer Fight
High in spirits if fewer in number than last year, more than 20 cancer survivors gathered Saturday to carry their purple banner around Cardozo Middle School's field at the start of Riverbank's 2012 Relay For Life.

It was the opening ceremony of the annual event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society in its unremitting fight against the deadly disease.

Longtime Riverbank residents Scott and Marilyn McRitchie who both fought and survived cancer many years ago and told their poignant story at Riverbank's first relay six years ago were in the forefront carrying the banner at this year's event.

With them was Mike McReynolds, long known around town as "The Railroad Man" since he retired from a career on the tracks and for many years gave safety talks to children at local schools.

"I kicked cancer 15 years ago," said McReynolds. "My doctor spotted it almost by accident while I was visiting him for a routine matter. He sent me for an ultra sound test and they found a tumor the size of a football on my kidney. I was one of the lucky ones. It was encapsulated. They did surgery. I didn't need chemotherapy."

McReynolds was also quick to point out his caregiver and wife, Roberta.

Roberta McReynolds commented she had been a caregiver three times. Her father died of cancer and a brother, too. But treatment is improving all the time and there are many more survivors nowadays, she noted.

Richard Boos, whom many know as a volunteer and driver for the Riverbank Christian Food Sharing group, survived prostate cancer. He remembers the exact date it was diagnosed, Sept. 9 of 1999, at a yearly examination.

"Now I go every year for my checkup," he added. "Thirteen years later, I'm alive and kicking. I advise everyone to get to those annual checkups."

Henry Lopez said he also fought prostate cancer 19 years ago. Lopez is a veteran of the Korean War in which he served for three years with another year's extension.

One of the most talkative of the survivors was Marrya Canales of Modesto, who has battled cancer three times, lost several family members to the disease and can still maintain an upbeat, positive attitude.

"I'm four weeks out of chemo and have almost got back my eyebrows and eyelashes," she said with a chuckle, although pointing out that an elderly male relative who has been diagnosed as terminal with lung cancer still has his long, luxuriant beard.

Canales said she's had cervical and breast cancer and complications resulting from the surgery. Her mother died of breast cancer and so did her stepmother. She has a teenage daughter and worries about a family connection to the disease.

But she had already spoken to her teen about that.

"Of course," she said. "She's seen me bald in treatment. She knows our family history."

Canales advised cancer patients to listen to doctors but be aware they know their own body better than any doctor, learn all they can about the disease and keep doctors informed on their symptoms.

She described herself as a mom and fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. She has visited Relay For Life events in Modesto, Ceres and Lodi besides Riverbank this year.

At the local event, there were seven teams this year. The names of the teams and their captains included Angels Among Us - Robin Hoegh; Curves For Life - Stephanie Munoz-Jacobs; Galaxy Stars - Danielle Costa; Hydration Hotties - Marrya Canales; Nths for the Cure - Marisa Aguinaldo; St. Frances of Rome - Caren Sanchez; and Team Eliminators - Michelle Decker.

The volunteer committee of community members that staged the event included chairman Taide Zamora; logistics and security Brandon Pettit; accounting and registration Michele Hood, Mandy Gray, Michael Riddle and Carmen Tramell; survivor registration Deanna Medrano and Jesse Santana; and American Cancer Society staff partner Sheila Doberenz.

In their event program, ACS and the Relay For Life Committee thanked many area businesses and organizations for donating their time and support.