By Tracy Farmer
In February 2000, I was diagnosed with Carcinoma Sarcoma, a very rare type of cancer with only 100 cases known in the United States. It was detected by an annual trip to my gynecologist. I then had a radical hysterectomy in March 2000, followed by six weeks of chemotherapy.
At my six month check-up, they found another spot and was treated with six weeks of radiation. After two years of check-ups every three months, I began to get sharp pains down my right leg and lower back. I had a MRI that showed a large incased tumor around my spinal cord. When I had surgery in May 2004, I was told I could be paralyzed or I could suffer a stroke while the spinal cord expanded back to normal size.
I was in intensive care for a week waiting for the feeling to come back in my legs. It has been two years this month and I still have partial paralysis in my right leg.
Without support of my family, friends and co-workers, I would not have had such a positive outlook for my recovery. Humor sometimes is the best medicine of all. Having a sister that always makes me laugh just by looking at her is a blessing from above. In these days of times, there are situations you never thought you would be in, or don't know if you will be able to survive, if it wasn't for prayers from family and friends.
I have now been cancer free for one and a half years.
Why I Relay
By Donis Dowling
In 1999 my brother and I started a walk down a long, arduous road. The road was named Non-Hodgekins Lymphoma (NHL). This road led us through chemotherapy, radiation, a stem cell transplant, many doctors, two remissions and the final diagnosis that we had dreaded and prayed would never come--terminal, no cure, no new treatments, no more hope for remission and six to 12 months to live.
My strong, vibrant little brother was going to die. Ada Police Officer Dave Dowling was my brother.
I had always thought him to be indestructible. It wasn't going to be a bullet from a bad guy, a high speed chase or any of the things a police officer's family dreads. No knock on the door by his fellow officers delivering the news. Death would come through a cancer that has no cure and, to date, no new treatments.
My darling brother, my best friend for the last six years would die surrounded by his family and fellow officers on a cloudy, cool November morning, 15 months after his final NHL diagnosis. He quietly passed from this life to the next with a smile of wonder and joy, and a message spoken to my heart, to the heart of our mother and to the heart of his son. November 15, 2004, the road ended for my brother and he let go of my hand. For me, the road continues in my fight to insure that new treatments and a cure is found.
Dave walked his first survivor lap in 1999, several hours after having chemo. That was the first time I had ever been to Relay For Life. I was honored to be able to walk beside my brother later that night and every year thereafter until 2005 when I attended Relay For Life in his memory surrounded by friends.
I have been asked "Why do you support Relay For Life?"
My answer is because I never want another sister, mother, son or any family member to feel what I felt for six years and what I will feel until I draw my last breath. I want NHL to become a curable cancer, I want it to be something that one survives. This can only be accomplished through research, research that can only be funded by generous donations to the American Cancer Society and Relay For Life. So many cancers that were once death sentences are now curable--breast cancer is only one example. My goal, my dream is to one day see NHL on that list. So I support Relay For Life, I raise money, I tell Dave's story, I tell my story because cancer is a disease that affects not only the person stricken with it, but family and friends as well.
I raise money in Dave's memory and also because of his friend and biker buddy, James Taylor, who is slow succumbing to the same form of NHL. It is for James' wife Beverley and his daughters Angie and Cori that I support Relay For Life. It is for all those who are fighting this disease. It is to give hope, it is to fulfill the legacy that Dave left me, "Life may not be what we expected, but we can still dance."