Craig resident Natasha Plantiko used one word to describe her mother, Jean Thompson — “fabulous.”
“She was the sweetest person in the world,” Plantiko said.
But, on Feb. 20, 2009, Thompson was diagnosed with lung cancer.
She died May 31, 2009, at 57, but not without a fight, Plantiko said.
“Her favorite saying was, ‘I’m living with cancer, not dying from it,’” she said.
During treatment, Plantiko said she remembers the selflessness her mother exhibited.
“When she was diagnosed with her cancer, she never once worried about herself,” she said. “She worried about everybody else’s illnesses and what was going on in their lives.”
Jennie Lou Delgado, also Thompson’s daughter, said her family knew soon after Thompson passed they would participate in the following year’s Craig Relay for Life.
The family soon formed a team, Jean’s Angels, to participate in the fourth annual relay, which took place Friday night through this morning at the Moffat County High School track.
On March 20, Thompson’s birthday, Jean’s Angels hosted a bake sale to begin fundraising for the event. As of Friday, the team had raised about $4,200, Delgado said.
But forming a team, raising money and participating in the relay was not the family’s idea alone, Plantiko said.
“She told me if I could help another family to do it,” she said. “She was in stage four cancer and there was no helping her.”
Jean’s Angles was one of 17 teams that participated in this year’s Relay for Life, event chairwoman Shannon Samuelson said.
Samuelson said there were about 160 registered walkers in the event and estimated another 90 people, including community members and organizers, were there in support.
The event entails participants and teams walking around the track for about 13 hours. Teams are required to have at least one member on the track at all times.
Relay organizers hoped to raise about $30,000 to donate to the American Cancer Society, Samuelson said. As of Friday evening, she estimated $24,000 had been raised.
Opening ceremonies started with a presentation of colors and the national anthem.
Samuelson and Craig resident Ken Prescott then addressed the crowd.
“We’re fighting cancer with every step we take tonight,” Samuelson said.
Craig resident Joel Sheridan gave a survivor speech before Rev. Bob Woods led the crowd in prayer.
“As we remember the life changing effect of cancer, we also vow that disease does not have the final victory,” Woods said. “While it can take our health and even our life, it cannot take our spirit.
“Help us to keep the fight strong,” Woods prayed. “Help us to work to fight to find the cure for the bodies and spirits touched by the disease. Help us to be people of hope.”
As Woods finished his prayer, the shadows of the crowd began to grow and the air began to cool. About 40 survivors, marked by purple T-shirts, approached the track to walk a lap.
Craig resident Corky Coverston took her husband, Ed, by the hand as the two headed to the track with the rest of the survivors.
Corky said she survived a battle with colon cancer about 11 years ago and Ed survived prostate cancer about three years ago.
“It is just something that showed up one day and we are learning to live with it,” she said.
The two had walked the event in the past, but said they found a new reason to participate this year. They were walking for their 35-year-old daughter, Ronda, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in January.
“We walk up here every morning,” Corky said. “(But) this is a lot different and we are going to do it every year we possibly can.”
Corky said the most important thing about the event is “that you are alive to be here.”
“To be here with everybody that is surviving and for the ones that are going through the treatments, to be here to lend them a hand,” Corky said.
She said the relay was a “self-supporting crowd, like a big family.”
After the survivors took a lap, the rest of the teams joined the walk.
On of those teams was the Northwest Colorado Chapter of Parrotheads, which came to support member and cancer survivor Kathie Johnson.
Johnson was diagnosed with cancer about 10 years ago, but said she fought for two years and has been cancer free since.
“I kicked it,” she said “I kicked its’ butt.”
The all-night relay, Johnson said, symbolizes patients’ struggle with cancer.
“It starts out with a burst of energy,” she said. “But, you’re up all night and at the end, you’re very fatigued.”
Craig resident Cathy Lowther said she was walking for the community.
“So many people we know personally have been touched and I felt like there wasn’t anything else I could do beyond take a casserole,” she said.
Lowther said she lost three uncles to cancer in the last 10 years, not to mention several friends and acquaintances.
“There’s too many to mention, too many young people,” she said. “I think it’s because of a small community that we know everybody. We either have them in school, or go to church with them, or go play softball with them, or play volleyball with them, so it feels like so many have been impacted by (cancer).”
And, as Lowther sat in a lawn chair, shouting at passersby to buy necklaces she was selling, she said she hoped to find a cure.
“I hope that the dollar that I fundraise will be the one to find the cure,” she said.
Lowther planned to walk around the track all night, she said.
“There are many people who walk all night,” she said. “We are not rare. Many people walk all night because cancer never sleeps and I can. I’m not sick, so I walk.”
— Mitchell Woll contributed to this report.