A Survivor’s Story

A cancer survivor shared their story as a great reminder of why we Relay.

I was diagnosed with cancer on Friday, April 20, 2012.  I never thought it would happen to me – I know plenty of people who have had this nasty disease, but it was always others, never me or my family; until “that day”.  “That Day” started off with a routine doctor’s visit that led to 4 sets of tests (blood, x-ray, MRI and CT scan) and three doctors.  Final verdict: cancer.

My first thoughts were “not me”, “second opinion” and “how am I going to tell my kids?”  I drove home in a daze and turned on my computer and Googled “cancer”.  Looking back, I’m not sure why I didn’t search my type of cancer (bone) but for some reason I just typed cancer and searched, maybe it was fate.  The first thing that came up was The American Cancer Society webpage.  I clicked the link and spent over an hour just looking through all the information and resources.  There was so much I became overwhelmed and decided to just call the phone number they gave.  The first thing you should know about me is that I hate talking on the phone – ask my kids and they will tell you that I will do anything and everything I can to not have to speak to people on the phone.  But I realized that this was bigger than me and I needed help sifting through the information I was given by doctors and reading online.  So I called and I believe that call is what is going to save my life.  Let me explain…

When I called I spoke with the sweetest lady who listened.  I didn’t realize I had so much to say in just a few short hours of learning this information but I did!  Then she asked me a few questions – simple ones I could actually answer!  Then she gave me information – explained a few terms the doctor had said that I didn’t know what they were.  She told me about the different treatment options the doctors had mentioned and what they meant.  Then she told me that while she finished gathering more information that she would email me, she wanted me to know that there was a Relay For Life event being held at the Haralson County High School later today.  I told her I had seen a sign around town for it but didn’t really know what it was or think I had a connection (karma???!!?).  She said I might want to go over to it and gave me some details on it.  I hung up feeling a lot better knowing some more information on this terrible thing in my body but still feeling doubtful – how am I going to fight this?  What will my family think?  I don’t want to be known in our small community as “the lady with cancer”.  I decided to go to the grocery store and while driving I passed three signs about Relay For Life.  I got the not-so-subtle hint from God that I was supposed to go.  This is the part where that call changed my life.

I pulled up to the high school and could not believe how many cars were there – I guess this thing that was going on was a big deal! I parked and was taken by golf cart down to the track and ushered directly under a huge tent.  There they gave me a shirt that said “I Am Hope”.  Those words still send tingles down my side.  After a dinner of subs, salads, fruit and veggies we had a balloon release and there were several people who had been survivors for over 25 years.  As I walked that first lap with everyone cheering me on, I realized why I was hope…. In 25 years I will be letting go of my balloon for the person who gets diagnosed and comes to their first Relay For Life.  I spent time walking around the track, talking with people and eating things that my doctors will probably tell me soon I shouldn’t be eating.  I kept hearing talk about a candle lighting ceremony that was going to happen soon so I waited around and enjoyed all the great skits, singers and bands that were playing.  The luminaria ceremony was my breaking point.  While sitting in the bleachers surrounded by a thousand people that I don’t know, who don’t know me or my whirlwind 12 hours, I never felt as loved or supported as I did then, thanks to the American Cancer Society and my local community.  I knew then, in that moment of silence, that I will win this fight against this thing called cancer because of all of the people fighting for me here at this event.

Next week is my first chemotherapy treatment and I have already picked out what I will wear – my I Am Hope Relay survivor shirt to let everyone there know that I will beat this and I will be their hope.  Thank you to the American Cancer Society and the amazing people of my community for putting on such an amazing event.  You’ll never know how much that night meant to me.

Local Cancer Survivor Supports Others, Named Hero of Hope

A reassuring voice on the phone can go a long way in helping a cancer patient. When breast cancer struck Linda Polly out of the blue, a friend told her to call the American Cancer Society’s National Cancer Information Center.

Linda Polly, 2012 American Cancer Society Hero of Hope

“They calmed me down,” said Linda. “I had very little cancer in my family. It blew me away when they found the spot because I couldn’t feel it.” The staff mailed her information on cancer, and Linda was able to take the ‘questions to ask your doctor’ to her very next appointment. “I went back and learned the terms. I wanted to know up-front what was going on.”

Her friend helped Linda fight back from the beginning through Relay For Life. Linda remembers doing the Survivors’ Lap and wearing the purple shirt just one day after her first chemotherapy treatment. She went home to rest and came back for the Luminaria Ceremony.

“That night it became very important for me to be there,” she said. “It became personal. Cancer became personal to me.”

Little did they know Linda would chair the Relay nine years later and contribute to a swift $20,000 in growth.

But that’s not the only way Linda fights back. Knowing how much a phone call can help, Linda wanted to do more for others in her situation. For the past five years she has encouraged other patients on their journey to get well through the Society’s Reach to Recovery breast cancer support program.

“Until you go through it you don’t know,” said Linda. “I lost my hair; I was very sick. I wanted to help and let others know to mark off every treatment they get. I can make someone’s life a little bit easier if I can share hope. That’s how I chose to make something good out of something that wasn’t so positive in my life.”

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