Caregivers honored at Greencastle Relay for Life

May 14, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER
  • Angie Wyatt, at right, whose survival from thyroid cancer gave her the opportunity to give birth to her son, Cameron, in 2009, walks in the 2010 Relay for Life of Greencastle, Pa., with her family Jim and Brenda Monn and her husband, Jeremy Wyatt, all of Waynesboro, Pa.
Kelly Hahn Johnson, Staff Photographer

GREENCASTLE, PA. -- Among the battalion of Relay for Life participants gathered Friday at Kaley Field marched a silent army, known only by their purple sashes, their never-waning hearts and a strength that would put giants to shame.

Caregivers often are the forgotten soldiers in the war against cancer, as they bring up the rear so their survivors can, well, survive, said Pat Faust-Baker, chair of the Greencastle Relay for Life.

But ask any of the 200 survivors proudly walking lap after lap this weekend and they will tell you the same: It takes two to beat this disease.

"I could not have done this without my mom," said Valerie Good, 28, of Waynesboro, Pa., a two-year survivor of colon cancer.

Caregivers were given their moments of much due celebration during the 15th annual Greencastle Relay, where the theme was "It takes two." By 9 p.m., more than $160,000 was raised for the American Cancer Society.


Watching a loved one battle cancer is a torture all its own, said Wendy Scott of Zullinger, Pa.

For more than a year, Scott saw the love of her life, her husband Georg, fight cancer in his brain. He died in 2008.

"I wondered how a heart this broken could still beat," she said. "My heart physically hurt so badly, but every day it kept beating."

A survivor's life is often also the life of the caregiver, said Marcia Long, Good's mother.

Whether going to appointments, bathing or managing the effect of treatment, most caregivers are along for the ride, she said, adding that while her daughter underwent treatments, she slept on hospital cots.

Living solely to ensure that their loved one continues to do the same is what Long said makes it difficult for a caregiver to be anything else.

"The challenge is to step back, to realize that they are still the same person, just a person with cancer," she said. "Though I will always wish it had been me, not her."

After Georg's death, Scott said the activities of a "normal" life were, to her, jarringly disconcerting.

"The next day, I had no one to bathe, no one to feed, no one to care for," she said.

"I was completely lost. I had to find someone to care for. I could not make such a sharp transition."

For many caregivers, the moments of solitude away from their charge can be the worst, as the mind wanders to thoughts unthinkable, she said.

Because a caregiver is most often a source of support, many forget that they too need to be carried at times, Scott said.

It was God and the never-diminishing spirit of Georg that carried Scott through the bad times, she said.

"If I did not go through this, I would never come to know in my heart that something good will come out of all of this," she said. "I do not accept that Georg's death is the end, because then ... cancer wins."

Remembering a 7-year old girl she met at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore who was also fighting cancer,

Good said she knew that even if cancer was to beat her, she at least had 28 years with her loved ones.

Many people who fight this disease, like that girl at Johns Hopkins, are given much less time, she said. Others, must go it alone, she added.

Today, Scott still battles the mark cancer has left on her life.

Yet it is not the hole left in her heart that she speaks of, it is hope.

"I don't consider my husband a victim of cancer. I consider him a champion," she said. "Cancer did not take his spirit. It did not take his character or his heart. It took his physical body. Because of that, I know cancer's days are numbered. The one thing this disease can't take is the human spirit."

"Look around," she said, gesturing to the more than 1,000 people walking at Relay. "That spirit is alive here tonight."

Relay for Life continues at Kaley Field at the Greencastle-Antrim High School through 4 p.m. today.

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