Keeping the Faith: A celebration of survival

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 18, 2016

survivor celebration: More than 50 survivors and caregivers attended the special event.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

survivor celebration: More than 50 survivors and caregivers attended the special event.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

“Everyone has their own fight buried in them somewhere. My fight is for all the sunrises, smiles from strangers, raindrops on my face and the people who believe in me. Every good thing that has fallen apart in my life left a huge pile of perfectly good pieces which I now use to pave my way to a long healthy happy future.” ¬–– Leslie McKenna, Lymphoma survivor.

Saturday, more than 50 cancer survivors and caretakers gathered at First Baptist Church in Picayune to celebrate life at the Relay For Life of Pearl River County’s Survivor Celebration.
Picayune Main Street and Moore Chiropractic Clinic sponsored the event.
“Relay for Life is one of our major philanthropic causes,” Dr. Debbie Moore said. “We’ve contributed every year since 2007. My grandmother had cancer and my dad also passed away from cancer. Finding a cure is important. It’s a good thing to get together and hear stories of hope. We want them to know that we want to fight with them.”

No stranger to cancer

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Sybil Watts was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2012. Three days after her mammogram, doctors referred her to a surgeon.
On December 3, 2012, doctors removed one of her breasts. However, doctors had a bit of good news for Watts.
“I didn’t have to have radiation or chemotherapy,” she said. “The results of my biopsy were sent off and came back with one of the best ratings.
For the next five to ten years, Watts will have to take a hormone pill every day and visit an oncologist every year.
Prior to her diagnosis, Watts’ husband passed away from lung cancer in 2011. She has also cared for friends who suffered from cancer.
“Cancer is no stranger to me,” Watts said. “Remember that your caretakers need prayers too.”

Live every day like it’s your last

Two-time cancer survivor Connie Ann Glorioso will soon celebrate seven years of being cancer free on May 27.
She was first diagnosed with breast cancer 21 years ago when doctors discovered a small tumor.
She underwent seven weeks of radiation treatment and continued to have a mammogram every year.
Seven years ago, on her birthday, doctors at East Jefferson Hospital discovered a tumor the size of a baseball hiding under the hard tissue caused by the radiation treatments, she said.
This time, the cancer was more aggressive. They removed one of her breasts and treated her cancer with chemotherapy.
Through her treatments, Glorioso said she was blessed and thankful she was surrounded and supported by her husband, friends, family and God.
After her first diagnosis, Glorioso said she was frightened.
“I didn’t want to tell anybody about it,” she said. “The second time, I wasn’t afraid because I felt that peace. The Lord takes care of me. My faith in God pulled me through. Live every day to the fullest, like it’s going to be your last. Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

A survivor’s guidance

Last September, Laurie Huck was attending Puttin on the Pink’s annual breast cancer gala, a move that may have saved her life.
During that evening’s speeches, a survivor spoke to the crowd about the importance of self-examinations, Huck said.
“I felt encouraged by her words and that night, I went home and performed a self-examination,” she said. “That’s how I found my tumor.”
In October, Huck was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, which is a more aggressive type of cancer and has a higher recurrence rate, she said. About 10 to 15 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer are triple negative, she added.
Huck has no family history or other contributing factors to this disease.
“You have to become an expert quickly,” she said. “It’s like jumping out of an airplane without a compass or help. You get the best medical team you can.”
From November to March, Huck underwent chemotherapy and on May 4, doctors performed a unilateral mastectomy. In June, they will remove her the second breast.
Huck said it meant a lot to attend the survivor’s celebration.
“I’ve had the love, support and prayer of my family, friends and community,” she said. “They have rallied around me and shown support.”

“Run Boyce run, Oprah has a knife.”

Joan Clark was the featured survivor speaker and shared her experiences, not only with cancer, but also as a caregiver to her husband Monty.
After suffering from back pain, Monty had an x-ray. Doctors discovered a mass on his liver and referred him to a specialist.
“We heard those three terrifying words many of you here have heard, ‘you have cancer,’’’ Clark said. “It was a rare type and due to his age and the location of the tumor, doctors said surgery would not be an option. They gave him two months to live.”
Clark’s son Boyce, a doctor, researched experimental new treatments and found stereotactic radiation, she said. Monty underwent 36 weeks worth of radiation treatment in three days, she said. After six months, the tumor was a quarter of its original size. By 12 months, the tumor was gone, she said.
During Monty’s illness, Joan said she was more focused on his care than her own health.
“About a year after his cure, I came down with a touch of bronchitis,” she said. “The doctors couldn’t prescribe medication because I hadn’t any lab work completed for five years.”
After a round of blood tests, doctors discovered she had pancreatic cancer. They found the tumor on the port on the pancreas where secretions are released. It was 1/16 of an inch and doctors caught it early, she added.
“If not, it would have silently grown,” she said. “I was one of the lucky ones, not many survive pancreatic cancer.”
Doctors performed the Whipple procedure on Joan, the most common operation to remove pancreatic cancers.
At the time, Joan said she didn’t have time for cancer. She was busy taking care of Monty, who had developed dementia.
However, after her surgery, she was quarantined for about a month and taking some “serious medication.”
“During that time, my son Boyce was in the room with me,” Joan said. “I remember seeing an image. It was Queen Latifah and Oprah. I told my son, ‘run, Boyce, run, Oprah has a knife.’ He also recorded that moment.”
Her caregiver, Shirley Williams, drove Joan to Covington for treatments every day, she said.
It’s been three years since doctors told her she had cancer and since then, she undergoes yearly scans and blood work.
“I no longer fear it,” she said. “I’m not going to live under the idea of ‘what if?’ I just look at it as another clean check under my belt.”