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Cancer takes toll on survivors

By: Reggie Jefferson Special to The News Messenger
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Editors’ note: Relay for Life will be held in Lincoln on May 17. During the weeks preceding the event, the News Messenger will be running stories written by cancer survivors. The reason I started relaying was because of my wife. In 2004, Amy was diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer (her story was published the week of April 17). When I started, it was to show support for her and to help raise money for future research. In the last year, my story has taken an even more personal journey as to why I relay. I myself was diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei (Jelly Belly), a rare form of abdominal cancer that originated in my appendix. After learning my diagnoses, I learned that it is so rare I had to go to Baltimore, Md., for surgery and chemotherapy. The process that I need is called the “Sugarbaker technique” and there aren’t many doctors that do the procedure. My oncologist said I need a specialist and that is where he was, so my wife and I went to Baltimore for me to get the treatment that I needed. Sugarbaker is a treatment where they perform the surgery by cutting you from breastbone to pelvic bone, scraping the “jelly” out and then putting heated chemotherapy inside you. After a 10-day trip I came home to recover. The day after I returned from Baltimore, I received a dreaded phone call; my father had passed away from brain cancer. I was unable to make a trip to Louisiana to be there for the funeral, because of my own health issues. I am now cancer-free and healthy with a new respect for life and a new appreciation for being a survivor. As a survivor, I have a chance to rethink my dreams and what is important to me. It is the efforts of everyone that participates with Relay for Life that has given me a second chance at life. The monies that are donated give hope to many cancer patients and survivors that one more dollar will lead to a cure. I have watched friends and family struggle with this diagnoses and the battle of this disease. When I step on the track this year, my participation will be different then it has been in the past. As I have done this in the past for my wife and my father, this year I will be doing it for me. I will be doing that survivor lap with a different perspective, a new-found respect for all the survivors that have made that lap before me and the burdens they have carried in their journey. I will be doing the Relay in thanks for all the people who have donated their time, effort and money to help those of us on this journey we call cancer. This year, I will light a candle for my father, my wife and myself knowing that the glowing light that spells hope signifies the most important word to any of us who have heard those words … you have cancer. The Relay gives us a place to feel hopeful and see hope all around us. For more information on the Relay call Christina Breiner at 645-5298 or via e-mail at cbreiner@ci.lincoln.-ca.us or go to www://events.-cancer.org/rfllincolnca.