Cancer has the ability to ruin lives, but the pursuit of a cure has the equal, if not greater, ability to build relationships and show the best in people.
Newton County teacher Amy Rains knows well the specter that cancer creates; she's seen the disease attack her mother, grandmother, co-worker and friends. She's also seen those women fight back.
Her mother, Debbie Sauls, is celebrating 25 years of being breast cancer free, while her Heard-Mixon Elementary School co-worker Gladys Knepper begins her second battle with the disease.
The courage of those two women, along with Rains' grandmother, Betty Sauls, led Rains to embark on the 60-mile 2011 Susan G. Komen Atlanta 3-Day for the Cure.
"Virtually every major advance in the fight against breast cancer in the last 28 years has been impacted by a Komen for the Cure grant. Komen is the largest grassroots movement for breast cancer; it is a charity that is near and dear to my mother's heart," Rains said in an email to her supporters at Heard-Mixon.
Staff members and students helped Rains reach her fundraising goals, including a "Pink-Out" Day at the school on Oct. 18, where faculty and students paid a $1 to wear pink in honor of Knepper, raising $250. Rains raised more than $2,300.
"As I read this tears came to my eyes and just a feeling of belonging. I want to thank everyone that has been so supportive and loving to me during this process. Although I have been here such a short time, you all have made me feel at home. It is a pleasure to work with you, and I thank you," Knepper said in an email to school faculty after the Pink-Out Day was announced.
Rains said she plans to walk in the 3-Day again next year.
"The 3-Day experience was amazing, emotional and inspiring," Rains said.
Residents can help Rains meet her goal for next year by making a donation or joining her team; visit www.amys3dayjourney.blogspot.com for more details.
The battle against cancer will continue family-wide as Rains' mother Debbie Sauls continues to run her breast cancer support nonprofit Woman To Woman in Gadsen, Ala.
"I wanted to walk this year in honor of my mother, who not only fought her battle and won, but gave back to her community of Gadsden, Ala. She took her experience and created a resource center for her community," Rains said.
More than 1.4 million women will be diagnosed with breast cancer globally each year, and around 10 percent of those women will die within five years, according to ww5.komen.org. Through the efforts of women like Knepper, Rains and Sauls, cancer researchers hope to remove the sting of death from cancer.