“My mother had three girls,” Harden said. “We expected that at least one of us would have it.”
In June 2000, Harden was diagnosed with breast cancer. Twenty-nine days later, she underwent surgery to have one breast removed.
Two years later, her sister was diagnosed and in 2010, her oldest daughter learned she too had breast cancer. All were treated, and they now stand as four survivors.
With such a close connection to this disease, Harden has baked more than 700 apple pies in the past two months as a member of the First Baptist Church of Duke team for Calhoun County’s annual Relay for Life. The annual event is scheduled for Friday evening at McClellan.
Relay for Life is an event dedicated to raising money for the American Cancer Society. Each year, teams from all over the nation honor cancer survivors and those that were lost by hosting festivals filled with food and entertainment, including the Survivor Lap — a time during the event dedicated to participating cancer survivors, who circle the track as a group in honor of their survival.
“It has a big impact because the survivors come together to celebrate their strength and survival," Cheryl Snider, an organizer of the event, said of the Survivor Lap.
So far, Calhoun County residents have raised more than $100,000 this year for cancer research. This year’s event is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, at the McClellan Soccer Complex.
“It’s a great cause,” said Kay Cox, Harden’s daughter. “It makes everyone aware of cancer and really hits home, especially when you’ve experienced it firsthand. I believe everyone has been touched by the disease somehow.”
Harden’s pies are a community sensation. She receives a number of orders daily for her sweet, fried treats, making anywhere from 20 to 80 pies in one day.
“I really enjoy doing this,” Harden said. “I may get tired at times, but I haven’t stopped yet, but next year, I’m getting an earlier start.”
With four survivors in her immediate family and a husband lost to tracheal cancer at age 52, Harden wants to give back, fight for others and celebrate her survival.
It’s her way of celebrating more birthdays.
Those wanting to contribute to this year’s relay can do so by making donations to a local team, purchasing a luminaria or attending Friday’s event.
For more information about Relay for Life and how to get involved, contact Amy Hinton at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 256-770-7719.