The face of survival: Cancer survivors honored
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 13, 2015
“Someone once asked me how I hold my head up so high after I’ll I’ve been through. I said, it’s because of what I’ve been through that I am who I am…a Survivor!” – Unknown Author.
Saturday, Relay for Life of Pearl River County celebrated its 20th anniversary in Picayune with a host of events including a survivor’s tea.
Event coordinator Lisa Lee said this year more than $52,000 was raised for the cause.
“I was very moved by the public’s support and growth in participation this year,” Lee said. “We do what we do for our survivors so that there can be more of them. Our goal is to find a cure.”
More than 50 survivors gathered at First Baptist Church in Picayune to share experiences, triumphs and their victory over cancer.
Her First Mammogram
Hilma Williams was 64-years-old when she underwent her first mammogram ever this past February, where doctors found dense tissue.
Her doctors performed a lumpectomy, where they found cancer, Williams said.
Four weeks later, she returned to her doctor and was given a hormone-blocking pill, along with a physical exam.
“When he examined my remaining breast, it hurt and the doctors scheduled me for a second surgery,” Williams said. “In April I had a full mastectomy.”
The first cancer appeared in Williams’ milk ducts and was not progressive, she said. However, the second time doctors found a more aggressive type of cancer.
“I’m thankful to God for giving the doctors the knowledge,” Williams said. “I appreciate them and my family. Relay is a great way to get the word out about cancer. It’s a silent killer. I had no noticeable pain whatsoever. Mammograms are also very important.”
In 1965, Shirley P. Campos was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Doctors removed all the cancer during surgery, she said.
In 1976, the now 85-year-old survivor was diagnosed with cervical cancer. As a result, Campos underwent a full hysterectomy.
Since then, Campos said she’s had one minor scare, which turned out to be acid reflux, she said.
“These events are informative and make people aware of what’s going on,” Campos said. “Relay does an excellent job appreciating survivors. I just coped with my cancer and kept busy working. I couldn’t sit and say ‘pity me’.”
Pure Good Luck
Four-years ago Michael George went in for a colonoscopy.
“It was pure coincidence and good luck that doctors found the colon cancer when they did,” George said. “I never would have known. I recommend everyone gets a colonoscopy periodically.”
George said he is glad he had the procedure and feels the Lord was looking out for him.
Doctors removed a section of his colon and were able to remove all traces of cancer, George said. However, he still underwent about eight months of chemotherapy.
“I have it checked every year,” George said. “Events like this are just wonderful.”
The Relay Veteran
For the past three years, 7-year-old Ava Scaglione attended Relay for Life events in Picayune to support her nana, local volunteer Tana Cochran.
In June of 2014, one month after Relay for Life, Ava was diagnosed with WILMS, which is a tumor of the kidney.
“Doctors performed an initial surgery in order to remove the tumor, but it was too large,” Ava’s mom Hayley said. “She underwent a biopsy and had a port installed.”
Afterwards, Ava was accepted into St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where she underwent about six weeks of treatment to shrink her tumor.
During her second surgery, doctors removed her right kidney, Hayley said. The cancer metastasized in her lungs and Ava received an additional 24 weeks of radiation and chemotherapy.
As of January 2015, doctors officially declared Ava to be in remission. She returns every three months for checkups, Hayley said.
“She did really well, as far as her attitude goes,” Hayley said. “She also had a couple of rough times. She received some heavy doses and was sick for a large portion of the time, but on her good days, she was great. It definitely brings the Relay for Life events to a whole new level. Everything changes when you’re personally involved and you have a whole new outlook.”
The pint-sized survivor offered advice to those battling cancer.
“You’ll have a better day when you’re done,” Ava said.