AIKEN - When Lynn Drinkwater got involved with the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life four years ago, she wasn't thinking about herself.
She got involved because she had lost her dog Svana to cancer.
She became one of the event's most dedicated boosters and, along with others, even started a separate event, Paws for Cancer. The Easter weekend five-kilometer race, two-mile relay and dog-friendly walk bring awareness to the frequency of cancer in pets.
But after raising thousands of dollars to fight cancer, Ms. Drinkwater has seen firsthand the benefits of the Cancer Society's work. In September, the 44-year-old kindergarten teacher at First Baptist Church learned she has cancer in her saliva glands.
"I didn't even know that was a possibility, it's so rare," she said.
She went to Atlanta's Emory Hospital for treatment, and, since she didn't have to be hospitalized, was able to stay at the Cancer Society's Hope Lodge. All guests at the lodge stay free.
She had her last radiation treatment Feb. 18.
Ms. Drinkwater will be the honorary chairwoman for this year's Relay for Life survivors' lap, which kicks off the all-night walk Friday in Aiken.
The event also includes a dinner for the survivors.
"I'm not sure I'll be able to do that. I'm so used to serving dinner," Ms. Drinkwater said.
This week has been busy for the volunteer. She has been collecting last-minute contributions and writing names on luminary bags in honor of cancer patients.
The luminaries light the walking track during the event.
Ms. Drinkwater had vowed to raise more than $2,000 this year - the approximate value of her stay at Hope Lodge.
"I'm happy to say I'm well on my way to $3,000," she reported.
Ms. Drinkwater has been out walking lately, working on her stamina. When she walks Friday night, she'll have her favorite button on.
It pictures Svana, a Doberman, with the words "My Reason To Relay" underneath.
Aiken's Relay for Life will be held at South Aiken High School this year. North Augusta's relay will be May 17 at North Augusta High School.
Both events are free to the public. Opening activities begin at 6:30 p.m., and the survivors' lap starts at 7.
WHAT: Aiken Relay for Life
WHAT: North Augusta Relay for Life
WHEN: May 17, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: North Augusta High School
Reach Eric Williamson at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.