An emotional gathering for cancer survivors, advocates at Prairie Village Relay for Life

Prairie Village residents Lana and Brian Hergenrader walked the track at Franklin Park Saturday for the inaugural Prairie Village Relay for Life.

Lana Hergenrader said she was sure she would be able to keep her composure.

She was strong. She was ready to put on a brave face to show the others what beating cancer looked like. After all, Hergenrader had been free of the disease for more than a year.

But as the first strains of “You Are My Sunshine” came over the speakers, the lump in her throat was undeniable. She clutched the extra Relay for Life t-shirt she was holding in honor of her mother and felt the tears start coming down her cheeks.

“That was the song my mom and dad always used to sing to me,” she said. “We never got to do the Relay for Life walks back home in Nebraska, so I was carrying this t-shirt for my mom. That song just got to me.”

Hergenrader has won her battle with cancer. But her mother wasn’t as fortunate — she died of colon cancer after fighting it for five years.

“We caught my breast cancer early, so it was easier to treat,” Hergenrader said. “I didn’t feel anything — there was no lump, no pain. But from my family experience with the disease, I know how important annual screenings are.”

Hergenrader was one nearly 100 cancer survivors, caregivers and advocates who marched around the track at Franklin Park Saturday for the inaugural Prairie Village Relay for Life. A 19-year resident of the city, Hergenrader and her husband Brain were part of a team of 16 from the school where she teaches, Noble Prentis Elementary in Kansas City, Kan. A total of nine teams participated in the event, which raised nearly $13,000.

A silent auction at the event raised additional funds, which go to the American Caner Society to support cancer research.

Cancer survivors took a ceremonial first loop around the track at the relay.