No place like hope: Family hosts personal ‘Relay for Life’ for man battling colon cancer


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — One local man battling colon cancer isn’t fighting alone — his family banded together Monday evening to envelope him in grace and love by organizing his very own Relay for Life.

Michael Sanchez received his diagnosis two years ago and used to participate in Relay for Life events with his father-in-law, who also had cancer.

“My father-in-law Rusty is no longer with us,” Sanchez said. “He fought his fight…and we’re doing it for him, too. It’s not just me in this; it’s everyone who’s been affected by cancer. We’re doing this for them.”

Sanchez’s wife usually organizes Relay for Life benefits; however, the pandemic halted those events.

Back from left to right: Michael Sanchez, his wife Brandie and eldest daughter Jaden
Front: Sanchez’s youngest daughter Teghan

Upon learning this, Sanchez’s mother, Jane Fields-Smith, brainstormed a way to organize a similar event to encourage him as he continues to combat cancer.

“I just decided to have his very own Relay for Life,” Fields-Smith said. “I got ahold of my family, which that’s not hard to do; we always come together.”

And come together they did.

Dozens upon dozens of family members decorated signs that read, “kick cancer to the curb” and “there’s no place like hope.” Sanchez told News Channel 11 he was oblivious to the affair, believing he was on his way to visit his mother and perhaps eat a fish sandwich.

Family members sport signs of encouragement and cheer as Sanchez arrives to the surprise.

Instead, as his wife and he neared Smith-Field’s home, they were greeted with family members lining the sidewalk waving and cheering him on — his very own Relay for Life.

“These are all my soldiers, you know, I’m not fighting alone,” Sanchez said. “I know everyone that’s here loves me and cares about me and wants the best for me and my family. I only want those types of people around me anyways.”

Purple balloons lined the property, and a handful of family members sported purple hair, the color Relay for Live events use because it symbolizes hope.

Sanchez doesn’t lack this virtue, and his message to others enduring similar battles is as follows.

You’re not alone. You’ve got people that care for you. You’ve got people that are praying for you — even if they don’t know you. You’ve got people praying for you. Just fall back on that.

Michael Sanchez

The American Cancer Society launched Relay for Life to fund cancer research and provide resources for patients and family.

As of 2019, Relay for Life fundraisers provided more than $417 million toward cancer research grants and almost $2 million toward resources such as support groups and family lodging.

Interested in donating? CLICK HERE.

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