Tagging garage sale goodies has become something of an annual tradition for Adele Rejcek, but this year was different.

It’s the first year she did the annual TeamCURE sale benefiting the American Cancer Society without her beloved husband of 41 years. Longtime Ennis resident Clement Rejcek succumbed to colon cancer two weeks ago.

“I missed him this year,” she said.

“He used to help me collect the money and bag the merchandise — it’s only been two weeks, so it was hard, but we have to get the word out that we need to find a cure for cancer and educate people about taking care of themselves and going to a doctor when they suspect something’s wrong.”

Working the sale was bittersweet, but Adele was there early Friday to greet customers and raise funds for cancer research. She’s a big believer in research and education — after doctors gave her husband eight months to live in 2000, cancer experts at M.D. Anderson were able to give him another eight years with her. She treasured that time, but would like to see the medical world triumph over cancer entirely.

“We are hoping to raise money toward a cure so nobody has to go through what we went through — and what my husband went through,’ Rejcek said.

“Cancer is not only physical pain — it’s emotional pain, too. And just because it’s not in your family now doesn’t mean next week you won’t be diagnosed with it,” she said.

The CURE in TeamCURE stands for Citizens United for Research and Education, and that’s very needed, said team member Jenny Chmelar. She’s a 12-year survivor of breast cancer. “We hope that one day they will find a cure that will save a lot of lives,” Chmelar said.

Lucy Mikula was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2007. A mammogram detected a tiny lump nestled in close to the bone.

“It was a very scary thing,” she recalled.

A manual breast exam wouldn’t have caught it, but thanks to the mammogram’s early detection, she was clear after six weeks of radiation and didn’t need chemotherapy. “Every day, I feel so lucky,” Mikula said.

“Most people think the way to detect it is from finding a lump, but early detection is the key to this — you just have to do mammograms every year,” she said.

Friends since their days at St. John’s High School together, she's happy to be on TeamCURE.

Having beaten cancer herself, she feels strong ties with other survivors. “Emotionally, it’s very binding,” she said.

Mikula and husband Edwin are luminaria co-chairs for this year’s event. The stadium track will be lined with RFL luminaria as the sun goes down, with each lit-up sack representing a loved on who has had cancer.

“It’s one of the most inspirational moments at the Relay For Life. When the sun goes down, hundreds of luminaria light the way under the stars to remember those lost to cancer, those fighting cancer and those who have fought cancer and won,” Mikula said. “This ceremony of remembrance symbolizes the hope and perseverance with which we all continue to fight.”

Newly widowed, Adele Rejcek is surrounded by the supportive friends and relatives of TeamCURE, including captain Sharon Honza, co-captain Kathleen Tay, Lisa Lipscomb, Jenny Chmelar, Cheryl Chmelar, Lucy Mikula, Edwin Mikula, Katy Lee, Ann Anderson, Halley Watson, Caren Chapman, Kathy Trojacek and Ramona Jakubik.

It’s that kind of networking and solidarity that makes Relay For Life so important, she said.

“If people only realized what Relay For Life is about, they’d get more involved. You get to see all these survivors who have made it, and if you get diagnosed, you think, ‘If they made it, I can make it.’ It gives you hope,” Rejcek said.

Ennis Relay For Life is set for April 25-26 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Ennis Junior High School Stadium.

The next team captains meeting is set for March 10 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at First United Methodist Church of Ennis.

For information about getting involved, e-mail team recruiting chair Judi Hejny at jmhejny@gmail.com or call 972-872-9239.

To contribute a Luminaria, contact Lucy and Edwin Mikula, 1202 Red Oak St., Ennis, TX 75119 or (972) 878-5439, or email them at emikula@swbell.net.

As of Feb. 22, the top teams in the Ennis Relay for Life were:

1 - Progressing to Happy Days ($2,642.00)

2 - Team WYW ($2,385.00)

3 - Ennis Public Library - Countdown to a Cure ($1,327.85)

4 - Lifesavers ($1,310.00)

5 - C.U.R.E. ($615.00)

As of Feb. 22, the top participants in the Ennis Relay for Life were:

1 - John Waedekin ($1,310.00)

2 - Angela Jones ($600.00)

3 - Glenda Valek ($400.00)

  4 - Misty Culpepper ($350.00)

5 - Shari Childress ($195.00)

E-mail J. Louise Larson at jlouise.larson@wninews.com.