This is the first in a series of survivor articles leading up the Relay For Life Celebration in Lonoke on Friday, May 2, at the Gina Cox Center on the Lonoke High School Campus.

By Mark Buffalo

Staff Writer

Ever since 1993, the word cancer is almost like a cuss word to me.

That year, my 61-year-old Granny, Ouida Fay Gaines died from cancer. Seven years later, my Papa, Robert Buffalo died from cancer. Then the big one, in 2008, my mother, my boss, my co-worker and one of my best friends in the world, Rose Mary Buffalo, died after a year-long battle with cancer.

I never really knew what cancer was growing up in Lonoke County but I knew it was "bad."

When my Granny died, I was in college in Fayetteville and had to leave to come home during fall band camp. When my Papa died in 2000, my wife, mother-in-law and I had been displaced from our home because of a house fire and it was so hot that summer.

When my mom died, I honestly thought how could I go on, especially working at the newspaper. We had been a team, working closely on the Carlisle Independent from 1995 until she was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2007. At that point, I balanced my sports editor duties in an attempt to make sure the Carlisle paper was published on time and delivered to the business around Carlisle.

It took me a long time to come to terms with her death but I knew I had to make her proud in what we were doing with our newspaper.

One way we keep her memory alive is through our daughter Emmy, who we adopted from China in September 2009. Her given name is Mary Elisabeth, named after my mom and my cousin Elizabeth.

I’ve had other friends who have battled cancer; some are still fighting and some have lost that battle. I’ve even had a family member, my sister-in-law, fight valiantly before losing that battle last year.

I’m not a cancer survivor per se but I feel like it has touched my life in numerous ways. That is why I’m working with the local Relay for Life committee and wanting to get people involved with this year’s celebration.