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11 May 2007
Relay for Life Survivor Story and Schedule of Events

Crystal Jarvis
Star Staff Writer
Anniston Star

A survivor's pride: Former cancer patients give back by participating in Relay for Life

Ron Wood says his life was saved more than 30 years ago by an experimental drug. He will walk around Oxford's Football Stadium tonight to represent cancer survivors in the annual Relay for Life. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star.

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Wood believes if it weren't for an experimental study conducted by the American Cancer Society more than 30 years ago, he wouldn't be alive.

Wood was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1975. After treatments the cancer went away, but two years later it reappeared, this time in the form of a lump right above his collarbone, he said.

Doctors predicted Wood, then just 28 years old, had six months to live.

Then the American Cancer Society approached him to participate in a study of Cisplatinum, a drug that had not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

After two months of expensive treatments, all paid for by ACS, doctors saw no more signs of the cancer.

“It was the Cancer Society's contribution that saved me in 1977,” Wood says.

After the study Wood, now 58, had many other bouts with health problems associated with cancer, but tonight he will walk proudly around Oxford High School's football stadium to represent cancer survivors.

Every Relay for Life Walk finale he participates in is one small way Wood feels he can give back to the American Cancer Society, he said.

Last year in Calhoun County, 85 teams raised $439,000, said Lisa Haugen, the area's development representative for ACS.

Local teams raised more money than Alabama counties with large metropolitan cities such as Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile.

This year, 117 teams are participating in the local Relay for Life, endeavoring to raise at least $500,000, Haugen said.

As Haugen tallied donations Thursday night, she said the totals seemed even more promising than last year, she said.

She would not disclose how much had been raised so far. The suspense will have to continue until after 11 p.m., she said.

“Sometimes they hold those dollars until the last second,” she said of donations.

Haugen, who has lost two relatives to cancer, said Relay for Life “represents those lost to cancer who won't be forgotten and people who are battling cancer who will be supported … maybe one day cancer can be eliminated.”

Sandy Golden, an Alexandria High School teacher, also will participate in the ceremony. She was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) in September and has been on an emotional rollercoaster ever since.

After returning to school in August, she felt more tired than usual. She recalled saying to her husband, “this year's getting the best of me. I must really be getting old.”

Next, she remembers hearing her heart thumping loudly in her ears. Then she knew something was wrong.

Within a month, she was diagnosed with AML and sent to University Hospitals in Birmingham to start chemotherapy treatments. “It was just boom, boom, boom, you've got abnormal cells, you've got Leukemia and you're off to Birmingham. It was very, very sudden.

“When you hear the words and the diagnosis that you have cancer, your initial reaction feels like you (have been given) a death sentence,” she said.

After her chemotherapy treatments, her blood count was extremely low and she needed to have a bone marrow transplant.

While in Birmingham this year, she used the services of Hope Lodge, provided by ACS. Since she had to live within 15 minutes of a hospital after the transplant, it was the best option, and her family saved money instead of paying for her to live in the city.

Haugen said county residents spent some 287 nights at Hope Lodge last year.

“It is my understanding that it wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for the money raised at Relay for Life,” Golden said.

Relay for Life

5:30-7: Cancer survivors reception
6: Tank rides, baton twirling exhibition
6:40: Survivor recognition
7-8: Opening ceremonies
7:30: Weaver Flippers and Jumpers demonstration
7:45: Karate demonstration
8-8:45: PasTime concert
8-10: Scavenger hunt
8:30: Team captains to light luminaries
9-9:30: Ceremony of Hope
9:30-11: PasTime concert
11: Team totals announced

Saturday morning
12-6: Games, toilet paper bride competition, poker laps, trivia, bingo
5:45: Closing ceremonies
6: Competition ends

See story at The Anniston Star's website: .

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