Caregivers and survivors of cancer gathered at the Somervell County Soccer Park Friday for the annual Relay for Life event. Twenty-five teams raised $35,000 before the all-night event was up and running. By the time it was over, $55,000 had been raised.

As the crowds gathered at the park, event chairman Tommy Gibson took a few moments to conduct the opening ceremony and recognize two very important people in this year’s event.

Vicki Sanders and Brooke Biby were co-recipients of the Kelly Nix Purple Heart Award. Gibson said not only were the many volunteers key to the continued success of the relay, but Sanders and Biby went above and beyond the call of duty to make this year run smoothly.

Gibson also recognized Tracey Young with the Chairman Award for her efforts and contributions to the relay event.

Rodney and Betty Smith were among the families gathered at the park. Rodney has been a cancer survivor since 2005 after he was diagnosed and treated for lymphoma in his neck. Betty said it was difficult to watch her husband undergo the surgery and invasive radiation treatments to rid his body of two types of cancer.

“It’s tough to watch a big husky man - you know,” Betty said.

The couple joined other survivors and caregivers for the opening laps of the event, which was dedicated to Cindy Layton.

As residents across Somervell County celebrated Relay for Life, Texas State Representative Sid Miller continued his fight against cancer. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year after a routine screening during his yearly check-up. Miller, 53, said he had absolutely no symptoms.

“Certain words you here in your life have an impact on you,” Miller said. “One is when your wife says, ‘Honey, I’m pregnant,’ and the other is, ‘Mr. Miller, you have cancer.’ Your priorities change.”

Miller underwent surgery in March to determine the extent of his cancer.

“You don’t know the extent of it until you have the surgery,” Miller said. “They removed my prostate and 43 lymph nodes which were all negative.”

That was good news for Miller because that meant the cancer had not spread beyond the prostate gland and he would not have to endure radiation treatment or chemotherapy.

“Get checked; get checked; get checked. That’s my message,” Miller said. “Every man over 40 should be screened every year for prostate cancer. It is the second most common cancer behind skin cancer.”

Miller said when he was having his surgery there was a 45-year-old father of seven in the room next to him who didn’t catch his cancer in time.

“If you catch it early, it’s very survivable and treatable,” Miller said. “But if you don’t catch it, you’re a dead man. There’s no in between.”

Miller said he’s doing well after receiving the results from his surgery on April 21.

“I’m bouncing back pretty good. I’m probably about 80 percent,” Miller said.