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Why I Relay: Celebrating Hope and Heroes

This is the seventh in a series of personal stories on “Why I Relay” from people whose lives have been touched by cancer. The 2009 Rowan County Relay for Life fundraiser begins at 6 this evening.
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Sabrina Caudill of China Grove wrote:
My husband always says, “Life is what happens when you are busy planning something else.”
That quote has become more and more true to me in the last several years.
In 1999, I was busy being pregnant with my first child. All the planning and excitement that goes along with that kept me pretty occupied.
Then my maternal grandmother, Ora Lee Faggart, was diagnosed with lung cancer. She had been sick with Guillain-Barre for several years and then cancer struck, to make matters worse.
My mother, an only child, was her sole caregiver. She had only been retired for a few years and had plans to travel with my dad. Then “life” happened, and that all changed.
In 2004, I was pregnant again with my second child and all the excitement was back, just like the first time. Except for the morning sickness that lasted all day long, we couldn’t wait to give our daughter a sibling.
Then, my dad, Glenn Tyson, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). My dad was the healthiest man I had ever known. He had never even had a headache and could work harder than men half his age.
How could it be possible that he had cancer?
Again, we were busy planning, and life continued to happen. We started an incredible battle for which none of us could have been prepared. My dad was on prayer chains in so many states that we couldn’t even keep up with them all.
My dad was in remission after a difficult round of chemo that kept him in the hospital for more than 50 days. We were so thankful.
My son was born in June of 2004, and my grandmother passed away that November. She had lived 85 years and we found peace in knowing that she wasn’t suffering anymore.
We all started picking up the pieces and started planning again.
My dad came out of remission 18 months after his first treatment. He took chemo again and was in remission again for six months.
During this time my husband, Andy Caudill, and I began building our dream home. We started in October 2006 and moved in July 2007.
Talk about planning. We had been planning for months and months and were so relieved that our plans and dreams had come to a reality and we had the home we had always dreamed of.
Then in August 2007, my hubby was diagnosed with muco epidermoid carcinoma. He had a tumor in the base of his tongue.
Saying that we were devastated is an understatement. Life presented us with another battle for which we were totally unprepared.
He went through 10 hours of surgery to remove the tumor and has scars on both sides of his neck from his ears to his throat to show for it. He was in the hospital for 10 days and our kids couldn’t see him. He had a tracheotomy, skin graphs and couldn’t eat.
He took radiation treatments for six weeks and lost about 80 pounds in the process. Prayer, constant and never-ceasing, and support from so many who love us got us through the battle.
So, why do I Relay?
I lost a grandmother to cancer, my dad is taking chemo yet again in his battle against AML and my husband is still dealing with side effects of his cancer surgery that will plague him the rest of his life, but thankfully is cancer-free.
We support Relay for Life because we have hope, hope that others will never have to experience what our family has had to experience. When you are faced with battling cancer and you pray and others pray for your healing, hope is there to give you a light at the end of the tunnel.
It is God’s gift to us. I continue to hope and pray every day that a cure is found for the horrible thing we call cancer.
– – –
Carey C. Presnell, reading assistant for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders at Hanford-Dole Elementary School, wrote:
Five years ago here at Hanford-Dole Elementary School, one of our own kindergartners, Brianna Nicholas, was diagnosed with leukemia.
We were all devastated. Then we decided we wanted to help Brianna and her family to fight this awful disease.
We then started our first Relay team. The children and parents of that kindergarten group all became involved in our fight. We held a carnival in her honor, had flower sales, candy sales, wrote letters and finally, on Relay night, we sold sausage dogs, chips, desserts and drinks.
Our team made $4,000 that year.
The biggest success, of course, is Brianna. Here she is as a fifth grader ó our survivor.
– – –
A representative of East Rowan High School’s girls softball, track and soccer teamswrote:
We all Relay in honor of anyone who has been through cancer, but our team members recently honored two people who are currently battling cancer.
One is Joanne Holshouser, who helped start our softball program in 1975 and has been battling ovarian cancer since August of 2007. As of March 2009, tests showed that her perseverance has diminished her tumor and the length between her chemotherapy sessions has increased from two to eight weeks.
We’d like to thank Mrs. Holshouser and her family for both the sport we love and her enduring and inspirational story.
Another fighting Mustang is Riley Brilliant, 4-month old son of East Rowan Spanish teacher Jason Brilliant and his wife, Michelle, who teaches science at Mt. Pleasant. Riley was diagnosed in February with GMB (glioblastoma multiforme) brain cancer.
He underwent emergency surgery at Levine Children’s Hospital and still faces shunts, tests and chemotherapy at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Riley’s diagnosis is rare in infants, and he and his family continue to fight.
Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
The East teams raised money for the Rowan County Relay for Life at a recent “Play Ball for Life” game with Carson High School. All three of the girls’ teams wore brown T-shirts with the breast cancer logo on them and the words, “Fight like a girl” in pink lettering.
Without the immense contributions of Mrs. Holshouser and her and Riley Brilliant’s courageous fight, none of us would be able or as inspired to “fight like a girl.”
Organized by Sandy Basinger, the East team sold baked goods and held a silent auction for gift baskets to raise money for the annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The HOSA Club ran a concession stand with proceeds going to Relay.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.

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