Jan. 24, 2013, will be a day that Karla Boatright will never forget.

“I was diagnosed with aggressive bladder cancer, where I would lose my bladder and they would make me a new bladder called the ‘neo-bladder’ using my intestines,” she said. “And that is what they did. On June 4, — a year ago — I had surgery, they made me a new bladder. And my cancer had escaped my bladder so I had to have a more extensive surgery, but they made me a new bladder.”

Boatright was the cancer survivor speaker during the Newton County Relay For Life event held on Friday and Saturday at the Bob Anderson Stadium on the Neosho High School campus. The opening ceremonies began at 6 p.m. Friday and the Relay ended at 6 a.m. Saturday morning.

Asked how her cancer was detected, Boatright said she had a burning sensation.

“I thought that I had an urinary tract infection,” she noted.

Asked if bladder cancer is common, she said no.

“No, [the doctors] told me that I should have been 75-80 year old male that was a smoker,” said Boatright. “And I am none of the above. That is why my first doctor was shocked.”

During her speech, she gave those gathered some advice.

“Celebrate life, don’t take things for granted, because you don’t ever know,” she said. “You may look healthy, you may think that you are healthy, but then God may throw you a curve ball. Put your faith and trust in Him, He will get you through it one way or the other, but you have to have faith and your faith has to come from the Lord.”

She said that her mother had breast cancer, but that was 17 years ago.

In the past, Boatright has been a supporter of Relay and has also participated in it.

“I would say at least 15 years, if not more, I have sang the National Anthem,” she added. “This time, I am on the opposite side of the podium.”

Boatright was honored to see so many people come out and support the cause to fight cancer and eventually one day win the battle.

“It is awesome because I have always had a big support group,” she said. “But when Donna [Hood, a fellow cancer survivor] asked me to speak on behalf of the survivors, I thought ‘wow,’ this is a time when I need to talk about celebration. We are here to celebrate, we are here to celebrate that we are still alive and that God is going to use us for something else.”

In just a few days – on June 20 – Boatright will go for her one-year checkup.

“And we will see, it should be good [news],” she added.

She also told the Relayers to “not wait.”

“I would just encourage them that if something is not right, and your doctor is not finding it, to pursue other avenues, pursue other doctors,” she said. “Be aggressive with it, don’t sit back on your heels, because I set back for a year, it would have saved me a lot of chemo. I had to take chemo, it would have saved me chemo if I had been more aggressive, because in that year time it escaped the bladder. Be aggressive, don’t sit back and think that nothing is wrong. If you have an inclining that something is not right, and your doctors is not finding it, and you still have something going on, find another doctor.”

One of the teams that participated in the annual Relay was Hippie Chicks of Seneca.

Lacy Skaggs, with the team, expressed why she Relays.

“I Relay because my grandmother (Phyllis Lankford) who died of cancer (Sept. 23, 2002),” she said. “And that is why I am out here, plus a lot of others that I support to. It is really close to our family, it means a lot to us to support every year.”

Skaggs said she was pleased with the turnout of the Relay. She also noted that she is on a mission.

“I want to find a cure,” said Skaggs. “I will support every year, we won’t stop fighting.”

Skaggs said she was very close to her grandmother.

“She was the core of our family, and it is really hard on all of us,” she added.

This year’s goal for the Newton County Relayers was to raise $70,000. As of press time, the totals were not in.

Relay For Life is an overnight event. Teams of eight to 15 members gather with tents and sleeping bags to participate in the largest fundraising walk in the nation. Relay For Life unites friends, families, businesses, hospitals, schools and churches: people from all walks of life. Teams seek sponsorship prior to the Relay, all with the goal of supporting a cure for cancer.