By: Kathy Parker
I was diagnosed with my first cancer just three days after my brother, Jim, died of colon cancer. Mine was a rare type of tumor my doctors had never seen before and I was sure I wouldn’t survive my cancer either.
But Athens-Clarke’s Relay for Life was just several days later and it dramatically transformed my attitude. When I saw the many people who had beaten cancer, I came to believe that I, too, could face cancer with courage and continue to live a rich, full life. That’s the power of hope and seeing so many other survivors gave me hope that I could become a survivor, too.
We can’t always control what happens to us in life, but we can shape how we react. After the initial shock wore off, my reaction to that first cancer diagnosis 15 years ago—and to the next 2 cancers I’ve had in 2008 and just last year—has been to reach out to others and try to spread a sense of hope. The In Their Shoes Walk provides an excellent opportunity to do just that and this will be my sixth year to participate as a volunteer or walker. When I join the walk, I walk for people who are not in a position to walk—to help give others who are facing cancer hope that they can beat their disease. I walk to share a feeling of solidarity among survivors. I walk as a statement that cancer doesn’t have control over my life.
Even more important than these intangibles, though, I participate in the walk because it provides financial support for many of the wonderful programs that the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support (LSCCS) offers. We are fortunate in Athens and Northeast Georgia to have such a unique facility for people diagnosed with cancer, their caregivers, and their families. Through my more recent cancers, my husband and I have consulted with LSCCS staff about questions we’ve had about treatment. I have attended several of the center’s classes and workshops for survivors. The support of the caring and knowledgeable staff—and other survivors I’ve met through the center—has been invaluable. I have also made use of the extensive library they have and I have referred to the center for assistance many friends who have received a cancer diagnosis. The center’s services are available mostly at no charge, thanks to charitable donations, including those from In Their Shoes Walk.
In the words of leading cancer researcher and The New Yorker staff writer Jerome Groopman, “Hope is the elevating feeling we experience when we see—in the mind’s eye—a path to a better future.” For me, joining the walk is a personal expression of that hope—that I can live a rich life, even in the face of a cancer diagnosis. More broadly, the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support helps to foster that sense of hope in the many people it reaches whose lives have been touched by cancer. Whether through walking or making a donation, In Their Shoes Walk is a tremendously worthwhile cause to support!