Thanks to all who supported Relay for Life

Published 5:00 am Friday, May 21, 2004

I started writing this column for publication a week ago. I putit aside, thinking maybe it was too personal.

Personal or not, there’s something I need to say, so today I’mgoing to say it.

To everyone who participated in the Relay for Life two weekendsago — thank you.

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If you helped organize the event — thank you.

If you were on a team — thank you.

If you gave money — thank you.

If you helped in any way at all — thank you.

It’s because of you and others who’ve supported the AmericanCancer Society (along with the grace of God) that I am alivetoday.

Although I’ve never had cancer, I’ve benefited from the researchof the American Cancer Society as much as anybody.

Ten years ago next month, basically because doctors couldn’tfigure out anything else to do with me, I began takingchemotherapy.

Cisplatin and adriamycin ruled my life for nine months. Nastystuff. Even today some of the side effects remain.

My ordeal began a year or so before that when a routine chestx-ray turned up a slight irregularity. No big deal, the doctorsaid, but see a pulmonary specialist.

The results of a bronchoscopy done at a Jackson hospital werediagnosed as Lymphangiomyomatosis (Lam), a rare and fatal lungdisorder that affects only women of child bearing age. I was,basically, told that I was going to die and then turned over tospecialists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

At UAB, the news was better. An open lung biopsy providedanother diagnosis: benign metastasizing leiomyoma. Although thiscondition is also rare — I was told recently there are 12 knowncases in the United States — it is treatable and non-fatal.

The usual treatment is surgery, which I had. It didn’t work; thetumors in my lungs kept growing.

Then came hormone injections upon hormone injections. Theydidn’t work either. As my lungs began to slowly stop functioning,doctors told me that I would eventually be placed on the waitinglist for a double lung transplant.

So I waited and wondered what would happen next. It turned outto be more bad news.

Six knots — ranging in size from peas to marbles — popped upin my scalp. They were excised and analyzed and turned out to bemore benign metastasizing leiomyoma.

Because the tumors were spreading, I was told, thoracic surgeonsat UAB would no longer consider me a candidate for a lungtransplant. Doctors in Canada or Mexico might.

Dr. Jack Fulmer of UAB’s pulmonary department refused to give upon my case. “This is acting like cancer, so let’s treat it likecancer,” he told me.

His plan worked. Going on 10 years now, my lungs have beenclear. (Unfortunately, Dr. Fulmer lost his own battle againstcancer several years ago.)

So, that is what led to my respect for the American CancerSociety and all those people who support it.

As in years past, our community responded tremendously at thisyear’s Relay for Life. Over $80,000 was raised here, which toppedlast year’s $76,000. I am grateful for every penny that wasgiven.

Some of the best news from the relay was found in the survivor’swalk. Close to 80 cancer survivors took part. That’s the AmericanCancer Society at work.

Write to Nanette Laster at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602, or send e-mail to