Lynne Jones was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer at 40 years old but, four years later, says her condition is much improved.

She was one of nearly 200 participants who walked the track at Liberty High School in Eldersburg on Saturday to celebrate surviving the disease, accompanied by family members who also participated in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life of Freedom event.

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"It's definitely a great celebration and a great celebration time," said Jones, who wore a purple T-shirt, identifying herself as a cancer survivor.

About 29 teams registered as of 7:30 p.m. Saturday, trekked around the track to raise money for the American Cancer Society, which donates money toward finding a cure and funds programs for patients.

One of the teams, Rescuers for Robin, walked to honor the memory of Robin Chenoweth, a former Gamber and Community Fire Company volunteer who died in March of pancreatic cancer at 56.

"We saw what Robin went through — nobody should have to go through that," said Bill Flanagan, a member of the team. "She was part of our family."

The event, sponsored by LifeBridge Health, kicked off at 5 p.m. Saturday with an opening ceremony from the Century High School Color Guard, followed by music from JoeyDCares Rock Orchestra, a nonprofit community group of volunteer musicians who perform concerts for charity. Cancer survivors grasping purple balloons were asked to take the first lap, stepping to the song "Walking on Sunshine."

The Freedom relay is one of six supporting events in Carroll County, according to ACS Relay for Life specialist LeAnne McFadden. Others are organized by groups from Westminster, Taneytown, Gerstell Academy, Manchester Valley High School and McDaniel College, she said.

Last year, the Freedom event raised more than $120,000.

Teams of participants walked around the track throughout the night into the early hours of the morning, with activities closing at about 5 a.m. Teams are required to have someone walking on the track at every moment to symbolize what cancer patients experience as cancer never rests.

Walking for such a long time can get tiring, but Flanagan said, "You realize the pain I feel is nothing compared to what [someone with cancer] goes through."

Although the main purpose of the event is to raise money to fight cancer, find cures for the disease, and fund programs for patients and their families, the relay also provides a sense of empowerment for cancer survivors, said Barbara Kreinar, an American Cancer Society volunteer who organized this year's event.

"It's the only place you can go and have hundreds of people cheer for you just because you're taking a breath — they are cheering just because you're alive," Kreinar said.

Kreinar, a 13-year survivor of breast cancer, is aware of the toll cancer takes on an individual. Her husband, Ed Kreinar, died of throat cancer in 2009 and her son, D.J. Kreinar, a 2008 graduate of Century High, is a 17-year cancer survivor who was diagnosed at age 7, she said.

Kreinar said the event makes cancer survivors realize how important it is to "take that next breath."

"It really is important to try to continue to live and find joy: They're going through a really dark, dark time — it's really scary," Kreinar said. "You're faced with your mortality and coming to an event like this is full of fun and full of life."

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Jones said that in her experience of battling cancer, she never had time to end up in a dark place.

"I wanted to survive for my children," Jones said. "I could never get to that point."

She was joined by her sister, Carol Quigg, who was part of her support system.

"She was probably one of the strongest people I've seen go through something like that," Quigg said, casting a glance of admiration at her sister.

Both women began participating four years ago when Jones was diagnosed. The relay provides a time for reflection, they said, because their father, George McConnell, died June 3, 2009, of brain cancer.

"It makes you take a moment to stop and think. … You can't ever forget it's going on and that it affects other people," Quigg said. "My sister and I walked throughout the night last year — 13 miles. Our father died in June, so it's a hard time for us."

Both women agreed the day serves as a reminder of those who have been lost to the disease.

"I wish more people got involved, honestly. … Sometimes it takes knowing someone who has cancer," Quigg said. "It would be great to see more kids get involved."

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Join the cause

For more information about the American Cancer Society Relay for Life or to make a donation, visit their website at relay.acsevents.org.

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