When Cindy Edmonston was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, she drew on the grace and dignity exhibited from a cancer survivor she knew well, her younger sister Stacy Montgomery.
Edmonston, 54 and Montgomery, 50 were the first ones in their family to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Edmonston said she worked through her chemotherapy treatments thanks to the support of her job and the strength she drew from her sister and other family members.
"You want your life to go on," Edmonston said, explaining that she wanted to keep working and "have some sense of normalcy" during her treatments.
The women said their entire family consists of "can-do people." They said they were raised to work through issues and support those who needed help.
For Montgomery, surviving cancer was the only option because of her children, who were 9 and 7 at the time.
"Not surviving wasn't an option," she said, adding that she wouldn't let herself think of any other end to the diagnosis.
The women joined other cancer survivors March 9 for the Ascension Parish Relay For Life's Survivor Bash at Premier Lanes in Gonzales.
The event gives survivors a chance to bowl, eat and chat with friends and other survivors.
For event organizer Kriste Haydel, it's a chance to honor survivors for all they've been through. Haydel has a personal connection to the survivors and Relay for Life.
"I do this all in the memory of my beautiful daughter, Amanda," Haydel.
Amanda Sinanan died in 2009 from brain cancer.
"This is what she would have wanted me to do — support the survivors," Haydel said.
Haydel called the bash a chance for survivors to have fun and "not think about anything ... dealing with cancer."
About 20 survivors and their families bowled, played games and dined during the two-hour event, the third annual hosted by the bowling alley.
Prostate cancer survivor Mike LeBlanc was busy most of the night bowling with sister-in-law Carmen Duplessis, also a cancer survivor.
For LeBlanc, who has attended every Survivor Bash held in Ascension Parish, the event is an escape for an evening where he can celebrate life with others who've been through similar experiences.
Lexie Grush, community manager for Relay for Life with the American Cancer Society, applauded when Duplessis and LeBlanc bowled.
Grush's agency holds the Relay for Life events in the area and provides services to cancer patients in the area, including a 24-hour hotline. In addition, American Cancer Society raises funds for research to cure cancer.
Grush said the hotline, (800) 227-2345, gives patients an opportunity to speak with survivors and volunteers with experience dealing with cancer.
The Ascension Relay for Life is set from 6 p.m. to midnight April 29 at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center's 4-H building.