by Thomas Lark

The fight against cancer is a personal battle for any family. And each family handles the situation differently.

This family’s lives have been marked by cruel coincidences. Martha Staley lost her first husband, Dale, to leukemia. Her current husband, Roger Staley, lost his first wife, Jeanette, to leukemia. Her daughter, Morgan, died of leukemia at 26.

Martha Staley knew she had to do something. And, as a retired nurse, she saw first-hand the ravages of cancer.

“I’ve never seen anything so ugly,” she said.

So Staley took up the fight, waging her own crusade against cancer. Soon, she will be joined by an armada to help fight the war against leukemia.

The event is the third annual Lake Norman Leukemia Cup Regatta beginning with a 6 p.m. dinner meeting on Oct. 12 at the Kings Point Marina in Cornelius. The regatta, which features a photographic scavenger hunt, follows at 10 a.m., Oct. 13 at the Peninsula Yacht Club, also in Cornelius, with a dinner at 5:30 p.m.

The effort, for which Staley is the volunteer chairman, raises money for the New York-based Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“We’re going after the Big C on a big lake!” she said.

Last year, the event raised $6,000 and “we’d like to raise $20,000 this year.”

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society stages similar regattas nationwide in areas such as the Great Lakes region and in the big coastal cities, Staley explained.

“You’ll find these events in any major city with water,” she said.

Besides yachts, this year’s local regatta will be open to powerboats. The event is similar to Relay for Life, in which sponsored walkers raise so much money per mile to benefit the American Cancer Society’s research efforts. Regatta donors pledge so much per mile.

This year’s event will also feature a silent auction.

Registration is $50 each for boaters (which includes a skipper’s meal ticket) and $30 for non-boating participants.

Staley said famed yachtsman Gary Jobson, an America’s Cup participant and boat-racing commentator, inspired the nationwide spread of the Leukemia Cup. Himself a leukemia survivor, Jobson started the regatta about 20 years ago.

Recalling her own personal and professional battles against cancer, Staley talked specifically about leukemia. It’s the third deadliest cancer in North Carolina, behind respiratory and gastro-intestinal cancers.

“We’ve made so many advances in other cancers, and thank goodness we have,” she said. “But I’d like us to make more advances in this area as well.”

The retired nurse said she, like other individuals and families touched by cancer, understand that each day is a lesson in appreciation and survival.

“It’s certainly a blessing to be able to walk on together,” she said.

Want more information?

To learn more about the regatta or to make a donation, visit