Walking for a cure
story and photos by Matthew Burgoyne
The citizens of Morgan County banded together in the fight against cancer at the 2008 Relay for Life, raising over $50,000 for the American Cancer Society.
On May 2 to May 3, members of the community gathered at Heritage Park for a night of fun, no sleep, and remembrance. Everyone in attendance had been impacted by cancer, whether they had a loved one with the disease or they had it themselves. Beth Bradley, organizer of this year’s Relay For Life, has her own story.
On May 5, 1986, Bradley was diagnosed with Stage IV Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This type of cancer centers on the lymph nodes throughout the body. There are four stages to cancer, describing the extent of the disease and how many other parts of the body are being affected. Stage IV is the worst and most dangerous.
A stage IV malignancy means the cancer has spread to multiple parts of the body, impacting numerous organ systems. Bradley’s cancer started in a lymph node in her neck. She was in her 20s and was living an active life. She had no idea she had cancer until she coughed up blood.
She immediately went to the doctor who ran numerous tests, determining that she had Stage IV Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The cancer had spread throughout her body, with one tumor covering her throat, neck, and chest area, including her lungs. The doctor’s gave her a 10 percent chance of survival.
Bradley became a test case for various drugs and treatments. She told the doctor’s to do whatever they had to do to save her life. They removed the lymph node and other portions of the cancer through operations. She then began chemotherapy and radiation treatments for one year. The chemotherapy was administered in a doctor’s office through injections. The nurses would argue on who had to give her the injection because it was difficult to find a vein strong enough to handle it. They called her “Bad Veins Bradley.”
The worst side effect of the chemotherapy was the hair loss. Bradley, who at the time of her diagnosis had hair down to the center of her back, had to watch as her hair fell out with every touch. She refused to shave her head, but claims if it happened again, she would just get rid of it all. After her treatments, Bradley did not cut her hair off again until this past November when she donated 12.5 inches of hair to Locks of Love, which uses donated hair to make hairpieces for children suffering from illness.
The radiation treatment was just as intrusive. The doctors would trace an outline of the tumor onto Bradley’s chest and block off the rest of her body from the treatment. Unfortunately, radiation kills and affects both the good and the bad cells in the body. Though the cancer was being killed, some of Bradley’s normal cells were damaged, including the cells that keep the mouth moist. To this day, Bradley always has a bottle of water ready to quench her never-ending thirst.
Bradley also had to take medication throughout the process. Her mother had to hide the pills in vanilla cream donuts because the taste was almost unbearable. The medication would also affect her sleep patterns. For two weeks at a time, Bradley would not be able to sleep.
Bradley could not work. The cancer had taken over her life, but not for long. Bradley has been a survivor and in remission for 20 years. She beat the 10 percent odds that said she would not have a chance to live. Her remarkable recovery is a result of constant hope and faith, virtues that everyone present at this past weekend’s Relay For Life share.
Bradley’s story was one of many shared at the festivities. The purpose of Relay For Life is to celebrate the fight against cancer. This year, the goal was to have 62 survivors in attendance. The Morgan County Relay For Life surpassed that goal with over 75 survivors. These people represented every age group in the community, ranging from the elderly to Lucas Smith, 6, who survived a brain tumor found at 18 months.
“This is certainly Morgan County in its finest hour,” Bradley said. “We are here to honor survivors and remember those who have lost their lives. It brings the whole community together.”