On Thursday, June 14, two events will take place in conjunction with Relay for Life. The first is a BBQ dinner benefit at the American Nation Bank Operations Center at 1725 North Commerce from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. For $5, you can purchase a BBQ sandwich, chips, fixings and dessert. All proceeds benefit Relay for Life and tickets can be purchased in advance at any of their area locations or at the door the day of the event.
The second event taking place that night is for a more exclusive crowd. Beginning at 6 p.m. at the Garden Center, Relay for Life will hold its annual Cancel Survivors and Caregivers night. Kelly Fryer with Relay for Life explained the significance.
“All cancer survivors and their care givers can eat for free,” Fryer said. “A lot of people don’t want to come by themselves, so usually whoever is walking them through their treatment will come along as well.”
“Everything will be catered by Caddo Street BBQ, which is going to be fantastic,” she said. “We’ll also have a speaker, Sharen Hale, who will share her story as a survivor.”
Fryer explained that they like to hold this event as a way of giving everyone a chance to come together, share a meal, learn about the things Relay for Life does, and how the support the entire community. Fryer also told the story of her first event.
“I first went with my parents who are both survivors, and I just remembered thinking it was so impactful to see so many people I knew who were cancer survivors,” Fryer said. “It’s really all about inspiring others to go out and make a difference.”
Fryer also explained why donations such as the BBQ dinner at American Nation Bank and joining in during the main event on June 16 make such a big difference. Not only is it helping fund free wigs and rides to the cancer center. It also helps fund valuable research. Research in which Fryer herself proudly participates.
“The American Cancer Society has been doing long-term cancer studies since the 50’s,” Fryer said, giving a bit of the organization’s history. “They started their first study and followed the individuals for 20 to 30 years.”
This original study led to the discovery that linked cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Then, during the 1980’s, a second long-term study discovered cancer ties back to lack of exercise, poor diet, and obesity.
Today, Kelly, along with 206 other area residents are participating in a third study. In fact, if it weren’t for Fryer’s efforts, Southern Oklahoma would not have been represented in this study at all. It all started out when she ran into the American Cancer Society’s CEO at an event years ago.
“I had the opportunity to sit by the CEO, and he asked where I was from,” Fryer remembered with a smile. “I told him, ‘I’m from the only state you don’t include in your prevention study!’ Then he said, ‘Oh, you’re from Oklahoma.’”
This eventually became a running joke between the two. Fryer reminded him of Oklahoma’s absence every time she saw him until one day he informed her that Oklahoma was going to be included in their newest study.  Oklahoma City and Tulsa to be exact.
“I said, come on that’s two hours away from me,” Fryer said, as she remembered. The American Cancer Society eventually came around and saw things from her perspective and told her that Ardmore could participate if she could find 105 people for the program. She ended up finding them 207.
“I gave four vials of blood, and I send in surveys that tell about what I eat, any medications I take, how I sleep. Anything like that,” Fryer said. “So if I’m ever diagnosed with cancer they can compare the blood before and after.” They will also be able to cross-reference her case with others to see if any of the cancer cases share a common thread. Fryer finds this the most important thing of all.
“There’s always a cause and effect,” she said. If we can figure out what’s causing cancer, we can try to prevent it.”