Harborites participate in Relay for Life for a variety of reasons: to honor family members who lost the battle with cancer, to celebrate their own survival, to raise money for research or to be part of one of Grays Harbor’s largest community events.
But Stan McManemy walks the track to eradicate a misconception: that men can’t be diagnosed with breast cancer.
The Aberdeen resident is living proof that they can. He was diagnosed with the condition in 2001, and has been cancer-free since successfully treating the condition a short time later. At this year’s Relay, he walked holding a large, bright-pink sign reading, “I’m a breast cancer survivor.”
“When they talk about breast cancer on TV, they say that only women get it,” McManemy said. “But that’s not true. And I’m here to tell people that.”
McManemy is the second man in his family to survive breast cancer. His father was diagnosed in the 1960s, but lived into his 90s. So when McManemy found a lump on his chest, he went straight to the doctor.
“He told me it was nothing, that it was just a fatty tumor,” McManemy said. “But I didn’t think so, so I went to another doctor. He said, ‘I’m glad you came to me. Otherwise, you’d be up in the cemetery.’ ”
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is about 100 times less common in men than it is in women. In the United States, about 2,360 men are diagnosed with the condition each year, and about 430 men die of breast cancer.
McManemy said he considers himself lucky — he knew what to look for and was able to catch the condition early enough that it could be treated without chemotherapy.
He started participating in Relay for Life of Grays Harbor in 2005, about a year after his wife died of lung cancer.
“That’s what this is all about,” McManemy said. “Remembering the people we lost and saving other people. That’s why I come out here. A lot of men think they have nothing to worry about, and that’s not true.”
Dave Hill approaches Relay for Life in the same active way. He’s been a 24-hour walker for the past three years, and took on the challenge after learning that those participants typically raise more money. Last year, he collected about $12,000. By 6:30 p.m. Friday he had collected about $350.
Both his grandmother and mother-in-law died of cancer, and Hill said he wants to do what he can to prevent other people from suffering in the same way.
“If I’m here, I want to be doing as much as I can,” Hill said. “I don’t want to be sitting on the sidelines, I want to be out here walking.”
Nancy and Jim Inmon also participate in Relay for Life on a yearly basis. Both are cancer survivors — Nancy Inmon beat breast cancer 11 years ago, and and Jim Inmon is a 6-year survivor of skin cancer. However, he recently found out that his cancer had returned.
The couple moved to Arizona a few years ago, but return to Grays Harbor each year to walk with their children and grandchildren.
“They’re our support system,” Jim Inmon said. “They got us through it all, so we come back each year to celebrate with them.”
For the most part, Relay for Life of Grays Harbor is a happy event for the Inmons. They enjoy being back in their hometown, and Jim Inmon said a larger portion of of Harborites participate in their local Relay than in the other Relays he’s attended.
“What I don’t like is that they keep having to add boards (with the names of people who died of cancer),” he said. “I hope that they find a cure soon, then they won’t have to do that anymore.”
Relay for Life of Grays Harbor will run until 6 p.m. today at Hoquiam High School.
OTHER RELAY EVENTS
Relay for Life of East Grays Harbor
Location: Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds
Time: 6 p.m. June 13 to 6 p.m. June 14
Fundraising Goal: $66,000
Relay for Life of Willapa Bay
Location: Raymond High School
Time: noon July 19 to noon July 20
Fundraising Goal: $45,000