Cancer was something that happened to other people - until a routine mammogram revealed it in Pam Anderson.
"Cancer changes your life," said Mrs. Anderson, an oncology nurse who was one of more than 200 cancer survivors to make the first lap of the Richmond-Columbia County Relay for Life 2000 on Friday evening at Greenbrier High School.
Making the first lap of the American Cancer Society fund-raiser is an almost mystical event, Mrs. Anderson said.
"Last year, I cried the whole way around," she said. "Everyone stands up for you and cheers. You feel so humbled."
Amy Breitmann understands.
Now eight months' pregnant, Mrs. Breitmann was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with her first child, Shelby, who is now 2´.
"It's just so emotional. You have a real connection with people you don't even know," she said.
This year's lap brought an added joy, she said.
"Everything's all new," she said.
From 6 p.m. Friday until noon today, members of the more than 60 teams will walk, jog or somehow make their way around the track. Each team has 15 to 20 members.
Designed as a celebration of cancer survivors, the Relay for Life offered a variety of activities, from fun to solemn, for the approximately 2,000 people in attendance.
There was entertainment by the Ballroom Dance Center, bingo and a pajama contest Friday night.
At 9:30 p.m., luminaries were lighted in honor of cancer patients and in memory of those lost to the disease.
Today's activities include a crazy-hat contest, self-defense demonstration and tobacco and nutrition education.
The Richmond-Columbia County unit of the American Cancer Society expects to raise about $110,000 in the fight against cancer, said Julie Tollison of the cancer society.
Across the Savannah River, American Cancer Society officials expected to raise at least $180,000 with Relay for Life activities in Aiken and North Augusta, said Angie Sanders, director of the Aiken office.
Running and walking teams, even teams of in-line skaters, spent Friday night in stadiums at North Augusta and Aiken high schools.
Ms. Sanders said she expected about 40 teams to take part in the North Augusta event and from 55 to 60 teams in Aiken.
"It's a celebration of life, set up like a block party," she said. "It's a blast, but it's more than that. It's emotional and spiritual as well as a lot of fun."
South Carolina Bureau Chief Greg Rickabaugh contributed to this article.
Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at (803) 441-6927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.