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Relay kicks off with healthy message

Make just one healthy lifestyle change, Emmie Jernigan challenged Relay for Life team members Monday at the kickoff for the 2010-2011 fundraising season for the American Cancer Society event.

“None of us here are strangers to cancer,” said Jernigan, who is the fitness director at the Brewton Area YMCA.

Jernigan’s husband, Yancey, was diagnosed earlier this year with cholangiocarcinoma, an aggressive bile duct cancer that has spread to his liver. The diagnosis has inspired the family to live more healthfully, which she is documenting in a blog called “The Yancey Plan.”

“The Yancey plan is about prevention,” Jernigan said. “The sad reality is, a lot of us know what to do, and we don’t always do it.”

The No. 1 thing people can do to improve their health is to quit smoking, Jernigan said. Exercising and watching their weight are also high on the list.

Jernigan challenged Relay teams to change their health habits as they also raise funds for the American Cancer Society, whose goal with Relay for Life is to raise funds for research and support programs.

“I really believe that cancer is an attitude, and being a caregiver is an attitude,” said Jernigan. “My husband was given two months, but he’s doing great, and we’re on five months. My father was given six months, and he strutted around for five years. Those were important birthdays.”

Relay for Life will be held all day on April 2, 2011, at the Brewton Area YMCA. Teams are set to begin fundraising soon, with raffles and other events planned in coming months. Last year, the group raised $65,000, said East Escambia Relay chairwoman Sharon Peacock.

“We’re fortunate to have a dedicated and hard-working community,” Peacock said.

This year’s theme is “One World, One Cure,” and teams will decorate their campsites as cities or countries. A variety of other activities will be planned.