Editor’s note: This is the eighth and final story in a series of stories on area cancer survivors as the date nears for the 2013 Relay For Life at James B. Abraham Stadium in Lonoke. The event starts at 6 p.m. on April 26. It concludes at 6 a.m. April 27.
"You have cancer"; "the tests were positive"; "I am sorry to say…" can all be the scariest phrases one might hear in their lifetime. It is also hard (often harder) to hear when spoken to a loved one.
Though the first moments after confirmation are so frightening and overwhelming, many diagnosed find a comfort and peace in the day to day existence that wasn’t present before. It’s as if you feel so out of control you finally surrender control to God.
I remember calling my pastor about 2 a.m. and expressing how angry I was at God — not because I was sick, but because I felt like He had allowed me to be a mother to a wonderful child who was not fully grown yet. My daughter, Kaleigh, was 13 when I was diagnosed. It felt, in the moment, as if I had been told I wouldn’t get to complete the task I had been given. I asked my pastor if it was ok to be upset with God. He replied, "Well, He knows who you are anyway, so you may as well put the anger into your own words!"
Most of the first night, Friday, Oct. 13 (yes, really!) was spent in prayer. Praying for strength and comfort for my family, praying for direction and guidance for my medical team and prayers for my own peace to pass all understanding was how most of my night was spent. Then, as always, He showed up in a BIG way! I had friends walk with and stand beside me through every facet of my care — from meals, cleaning my house, taking Kaleigh out for fun, prayers, fund raisers to offset medical care, and floods of phone calls and email to encourage and support. One special lady from church always managed to remember my doctor’s appointments and test schedules and would always encourage me on those days and check on me for results every day until I had a report. I still refer to her as "My Biggest Cancer Kicking Cheerleader".
Caregivers play such an integral part of the treatment/healing process and can range from family members, friends, church members, store clerks, receptionists and our physicians. The greatest thing one can do for someone going through the process is to let them know you care in a way that is genuine and sincere. We feel the love through each thought, action and word.
I am a survivor, but also have been a caregiver. My mother, Peggy (Johnson) Evans, endured uterine and breast cancer to succumb to liver and gallbladder cancer 10 years after the original breast cancer diagnosis (we thought we were "all clear"). Though my mother only lived nine days beyond diagnosis, our family was with her around the clock to shower her with love and support.
Mom is a descendant of the Waymack family from Cabot. My grandmother, Alcidean (Waymack) Johnson was also a cancer survivor. My grandmother is one of 16 children (15 of which made it to adulthood) and one of the nine who have had cancer. One of my grandmother’s sisters had three different cancers in her lifetime. Dr. Ross, my grandmother’s oncologist in Little Rock, asked the Waymack family to voluntarily be a part of a study on the genetic link of cancer. Dr. Ross was associated with St. Vincent’s at the time, but the study was performed through UAMS. This research offered many of our family members a way to better determine their cancer risk and understand how important early detection and prevention can be to someone with such a strong genetic propensity for a certain disease.
By coming to and supporting Relay for Life Events and fundraisers, we each can take an active part in making sure our families and ourselves can "Celebrate More" (more birthdays, more graduations, more marriages, more births, more anniversaries, more milestones, but mostly MORE days!)
To honor those who have fought the battle and those who stood in the gap with us, we celebrated Tuesday night with a Survivor/Caregiver dinner hosted by Advada’s in Carlisle. Each survivor was presented with a gift bag full of donations and decorated to help remember to "Celebrate More.".We, as survivors AND caregivers, thank all those who helped by serving on the committee and donating time and talents.
I encourage you to join us this Friday night at 6 p.m. at the Lonoke High School football field where I will emcee the event. We have some special surprises planned and will enjoy a night of fellowship, fun, friends and food as we raise money for More research so we can all Celebrate More!