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Relay in the city: Picayune celebrates 20 years of Relay for Life

whipple warrior: Picayune native Kathy Burr underwent the Whipple procedure twice, which is the complete removal of a person’s pancreas when pre-cancerous cells are found.  Burr said she is blessed with wonderful caregivers including her husband Robert, who is pictured at right.  Submitted photo

whipple warrior: Picayune native Kathy Burr underwent the Whipple procedure twice, which is the complete removal of a person’s pancreas when pre-cancerous cells are found. Burr said she is blessed with wonderful caregivers including her husband Robert, who is pictured at right.
Submitted photo


Cancer. It’s a small word but has a meaning larger than life itself.
For some, fighting this disease is the battle of a lifetime and tragically for others, no matter how fierce the fight, cancer will claim their lives.
The American Cancer Society Relay for Life is a movement remembering the lost, celebrating those in the battle and working to eliminate the illness altogether.
This year, Relay for Life will celebrate 30 years and Picayune will celebrate 20 years of participation.
This year’s event lead is Lisa Lee of Greene County. She is not only a registered nurse but also experienced first hand the heartbreak of losing a loved one to cancer.
“My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1994,” Lee said. “In 2001 his cancer reoccurred and his health continued to decline until 2005.”
Lee became an American Cancer Society volunteer in 2001 to honor her father. It was her way of saying she wanted to make a difference.
Greene was chairing a Relay event in Greene County in 2005 on the same afternoon her father passed away.
“The last thing I told him was that I couldn’t make a difference for him, but I wouldn’t stop until I made a difference for someone,” Lee said.
Whipple warrior Kathy Burr was born and raised in Picayune and attended her first Relay event last year.
About two and a half years ago, Burr began experiencing frightening symptoms after eating.
“I would get nauseated, pass out in stores and ran off the road once while driving,” Burr said. “I talked to a friend who is a nurse and she suggested I have my sugar checked.”
Burr underwent a glucose tolerance test and was told by doctors that the cause could be tumors.
Burr’s son, Kevin, researched online and contacted specialists at Tulane Hospital in New Orleans who performed more in-depth tests.
“There are no tests that can pick up these type of tumors and that’s the scary part,” Kevin said.
Pathology reports revealed pseudo cysts in the ductwork of Kathy’s pancreas. According to Kathy, they were about the size of a grain of sand.
Doctors monitored Kathy’s pancreas and follow-up scans revealed her ductwork had grown.
Kathy was scheduled for exploratory surgery, which she underwent on July 22, 2013. Surgeons removed half of her pancreas, three-quarters of her stomach, gallbladder and duodenum, which is the first section of the small intestine.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, this type of operation is known as the Whipple procedure which is the most common operation to remove pancreatic cancers. This procedure is also used to treat benign pancreatic lesions, cysts and cancers in the bile duct and beginning part of the small intestine.
Kathy said doctors found two pre-cancerous types of cells after surgery, which were intraductal papillary muinous neoplasms and nesidoblastosis.
Eleven months later, Burr experienced the same symptoms.
Doctors performed another scan and told her the remaining ductwork looked inflamed.
At the end of April, Kathy was admitted to the emergency room with severe pain and scans revealed the cells had returned with a vengeance, she said.
On June 23, the remainder of her pancreas was removed.
“My doctors felt comfortable enough that cells were contained to the area that was removed,” Burr said. “I didn’t have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation.”
As a result of the Whipple, Burr is required to take digestive enzyme medication with every meal to break down the food. When her pancreas was removed, she instantly became a Type 3C diabetic and wears an insulin pump.
“Relay for Life is a great cause and it’s awesome knowing they are bringing awareness to all types of cancers,” Burr said. “I thank God, my family and my neighbors for caring for me. They help me get dressed, bathing as well as other daily routines. Caregivers are very important. Also, be an advocate for yourself. If you have an issue with your health, follow through. If you don’t feel comfortable with one doctor’s answer, seek another opinion.”
On Monday, the 2015 Relay for Life Kickoff will be held at Kellie’s PoorBoy, located at 2322 Hwy. 43, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Anyone interested in being involved with Relay for Life is welcome to come, Lee said. During the event, participants will learn how to form a team.
For more information contact Lee at 601-394-3363 or Carla Kyzar at 601-441-9724.
Picayune’s Relay for Life event will be held on May 9, 2015 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Jack Read Park pending city approval, Lee said.
“We want all of Pearl River County to own this event,” Lee said. “What better way to honor someone who died and is surviving than to go out and say ‘I’m standing with you in this fight.’”