Cancer survivor Maurice Thomas lost his older brother Gordon to cancer in 2011.
As one of the Relay For Life Honorary Survivors, he told the gathered crowd of survivors, fighters, and supporters gathered in Dodger Stadium how that tragic event probably saved his life.
"My brother was talking at Christmas dinner," Thomas said before stopping for a few seconds. "You make sure you to get a colonoscopy."
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Jean Haake, of Fort Dodge, smiles at a friend in the audience Friday evening at the start of the Survivor’s Lap during the annual Relay For Life at Dodger Stadium.
While not exactly a Currier and Ives Christmas moment, Thomas did eventually do so.
"They found three polyps," he said. "One was cancerous."
Following eight hours of surgery to remove the growth, he was left with two centimeters less colon and a long recovery period.
He said that had he gone earlier, removal of the tumor would have been much less invasive.
"Early detection is what it's all about," he said.
In honor of his brother, Thomas carries cards that he gives away, they encourage the recipient to get a checkup.
On the back is the short verse he finished his talk with.
"Support the fighters, admire the survivors, honor the fallen and never ever give up hope," he said.
Claire Wallace, 14, is also an Honorary Survivor.
She's been a survivor and fighter since infancy, she had a heart transplant when she was 6 months old. The anti-rejection drugs leave her vulnerable to many ailments including cancer.
Her family got the bad news several years ago when she began having abdominal pains.
Her father, Lincoln Wallace, spoke to the crowd in a bright red kilt, the outfit matched the Claire's Clan theme of her team.
He spoke of watching his daughter endure chemotherapy and surgery.
"She has a quiet dignity and strength that humbles her mother and I," he said.
While she's currently in remission, the family has no intention of giving up on keeping it that way.
"Our battle is not over," Lincoln Wallace said. "We continue to fight."
Tracy Knoblauch, of Urbandale, is one of those at the event who's still fighting. She was diagnosed with breast cancer around Thanksgiving in 2012.
She said that events like the Relay For Life are an important source of support.
"It helps keep us going," she said.'It helps tremendously."
Of course, her family members were there to help her too, as she came around the track during the first lap, they rose to give her a round of hugs.
Each wore a shirt made for the occasion, with only a change for relationship, each offered specific support.
"My aunt's battle, is my battle," they said.
The event drew about 40 teams. Over 160 individuals had purchased luminaries at the start of the event.