Although the 2016 Pettis/Johnson County Relay for Life saw many changes this year, one thing that did not change or waver was the steadfast hope and belief of all those who participated that one day there will be a cure for cancer.
That message was heard throughout the day from the opening invocation to the powerful words spoken by cancer survivor Pauline Hayes who was the guest speaker for the event.
Prior to her remarks to those in attendance Saturday, Hayes spoke to the Democrat about her 13-year fight against cancer.
“I’m a survivor and I choose life,” Hayes said. “Each morning when I wake up I thank God, I put my feet on the floor and then I put one foot in front of the other and keep moving on.
“I have children and grand-kids and six great-grandchildren and I want to see them grow,” she added. “They call me great-grandma Pauline and I want to be here for them all.”
Hayes was first diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2003.
“I have a type of cancer known as GIST (gastro-intestinal tumors.) Hayes said. “”It is a slow growing, incurable form that the doctors said I may have had for four or five years before they found it.
“It can’t be treated with intravenous chemo or radiation and the pills I take they found by accident because they are used for leukemia patients,” she explained. “Some days the pills make my really sick because they have the same effects as the chemo and radiation would be, but it’s alright because I’m still hanging in there.”
Hayes said that in 2003, she was feeling really sick and her back was hurting when she went to the doctor.
After running tests, Hayes was told that there was a bacteria in her blood and she was put in isolation for two weeks before the doctors found the tumors.
“I was really quite sick and my back was really hurting,” Hayes said. “I was told the tumors had eaten into my stomach and so I had my first surgery.
“I started my first round of pills but unfortunately the doctors weren’t able to get it all,” she added. “In 2008 it reared its ugly little head again and came back.”
Hayes had a second operation and began her second round treatment with the pills.
“The pills did okay until last August, when a sneaky little cell landed on my colon, seven months later it has spread to my liver,” Hayes stated. “I’m now on my fourth and last set of pills.
“Until the good Lord or scientists find a cure I’m on my last set,” she added. “My doctor is a good man and we have talked about what can be done next; we’re not giving up and he told me at my last visit that if this doesn’t work we will start completely over again and keep trying.”
Hayes commented that she recognized both the tumors and her body have changed throughout her 13-year fight and treatment but she was fine with that.
“There are a lot of side effects, you lose your hair and the voice changes, but come to think of it I’m not sure if that’s the treatment or if I’m just getting old,” she said with her warm smile and laugh. “It’s strange how you just keep going and you just know that sooner or later one of the treatments is going to work.”
During her remarks to the audience at the Relay, Hayes added these words.
“We learn to smile and laugh and put one foot in front of the other and go on,” she said. There is no rhyme or reason for any of this and it can destroy families unless they have a base, the Relay for Life provides that base.”
Pastor Duane Duchesne of New Hope Baptist Church in his invocation stated that everyone in attendance had been affected by cancer.
“Many people here today have been affected physically by cancer,” Duchesne said. “But all of us have been affected emotionally by the disease.”
Twenty nine teams and over 300 individuals participated in this year’s event which to date this year has raised $52,309.
“We have some teams who have yet to turn in their money,” Melissa McGathy told the Democrat Sunday morning, “And we will continue to fund raise and collect money through the end of September.”
McGathy and the co-leads for the event, Andrea Young and David Seenauth, thanked everyone for their understanding and patience as the event, which is normally held outdoors, was moved inside to the mezzanine of the gymnasium at Smith-Cotton High School to avoid Saturday’s heat and humidity.
“Eliminating cancer isn’t easy, nothing worthwhile ever is,” Seenauth said. “We appreciate all of the efforts you have made and your patience and understanding as we make adjustments to the event today,”
Seenauth was the event lead for the Johnson County Relay for Life who joined forces with Pettis County this year to host one event.
The move indoors and a smaller venue was something those in attendance took in stride.
Taking things in stride was one thing Hayes thanked everyone for.
“As survivors we take things one day at a time no matter what and we just keep moving and standing tall,” she said. “We fill ourselves with faith and love and compassion.
“We are all beautiful in the journey; we all carry scars but we try not to show our fears,” she added. “We choose life.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484