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Relay for Life events begin tomorrow

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By Calen McKinney

 

He hopes to offer hope, for those who have been where he is and the families who have supported their loved ones through it.

Campbellsville resident Richard Phillips has cancer. And tomorrow, he will tell the crowd at Taylor County's annual Relay for Life events what has gotten him through his illness.

Phillips, 48, who serves as a magistrate and works at Taylor Regional Hospital, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's follicular lymphoma on Feb. 1. Since then, he has taken six chemotherapy treatments.

Phillips will continue taking medication for two years and have scans periodically to see if his cancer has progressed. He had an appointment yesterday with a doctor to discuss results of a recent scan. He was declared cancer free.

Phillips said steroids and other medications have helped him through chemo and allowed him to continue to work and feel relatively well.

"So many people have been so good to me," he said. "I've been the luckiest person in the world."

Phillips said he gave a presentation last year about what he learned from his first battle with cancer in 2009. He had melanoma. After the presentation, he was asked to share with the crowd at Relay.

He said he believes him having cancer - twice - isn't by mistake.

"It didn't just happen," he said. "I think there's a purpose. And I plan to live out that purpose.

"Because I believe God gave me cancer for a reason. I think it was to tell people it's not the end of the world."

When being diagnosed with cancer, Phillips said, some patients might feel they have been sucked into a hole.

"But I know the way out," he said. "When you can look somebody in the eyes and give them hope, there's nothing better than that. If I have to go through cancer to be able to do that, I'll do it."

Phillips said he has learned to truly appreciate each day of life.

"You enjoy the precious present because you don't know what tomorrow's gonna bring."

Phillips said he will share two poems he wrote about his experience with cancer tomorrow night. They are included along with this story online at www.cknj.com.

Preparation for tomorrow's Relay for Life events began with a kickoff in October, according to event co-chair Sheila Hayes. Her husband, Steve, is chair.

Her father, Willis Carter, who lived in Campbellsville, died in 2001 after battling cancer; and her father-in-law, John Hayes, who lived in Casey County, also died after his battle. Having a history with cancer made Relay for Life even more important to the Hayes family.

"It just made it a little more near and dear to me," she said.

Hayes said last October's kickoff helped get the word out about Relay, form a committee and recruit team members.

A committee of 13 people was finalized and team, sponsorship, mission and advocacy and recognition and awards and other chairs were chosen.

From then, Hayes said, the committee had monthly meetings to decide the goals for this year's events and plan activities for the night.

Hayes said teams have hosted several fundraisers over the past few months, from selling cookbooks to hosting yard sales and manning roadblocks.

The goal this year, she said, is to raise $50,000. As of a few weeks ago, the total was already at $30,000.

"So we're really hoping that we're gonna meet that," Hayes said.

As of Tuesday, about 20 teams were signed up to participate. Committee members are hoping for 25.

Hayes said money can be donated to Relay at any time. One of Relay's largest fundraisers, luminaries, can be purchased until right before the luminaria ceremony at 10 p.m. The ceremony, she said, is a moment of pause to remember those still fighting cancer and those who lost the fight.

She said Friday night's fundraisers will include a gift basket auction, raffle and food sales. Gift baskets include a variety of items, Hayes said, from a pool party at city pool to items donated by Amazon.com and much more.

This year, Hayes said, there will be a meal for cancer survivors before official Relay events get under way.

"This is what the events are all about," she said.

The meal is from 5:30 to 7 p.m., and those who want to attend should call 403-7620 to make reservations.

Opening ceremonies will get under way at 7 p.m. at Taylor County High School football field. Phillips will speak and cancer survivors will receive a medal. There will be a survivor's lap, followed by team and caregiver laps.

At 8 p.m., Hayes said, the night's special activities get under way. This year's theme is "Survivors say, 'Every day is a holiday.'"

As such, she said, events are geared toward different holidays, including Easter, Valentine's Day, Fourth of July, Christmas and New Year's Eve. A complete lineup of events is listed in a sidebar to this story.

Hayes said she and her husband chose the theme because it seemed easy to implement and because everyone has holiday decorations. She said she also liked the thought that cancer survivors see each day as a holiday.

"I was like, 'You know, that's really true in a huge way. Every day they're here is another day of Thanksgiving for them."

This year's Relay for Life will also celebrate the American Cancer Society's 100th birthday. As such, there will be lots of birthday decorations. The cancer society recently enrolled many Taylor County residents in a study to help determine the causes of cancer.

For those who aren't yet involved with a Relay team, Hayes said she encourages them to come to Relay and join a team. Teams can be made up of people from organizations, businesses, churches, schools and families.

"[Or] just a group of friends that get together," she said.

Hayes said the purpose of Relay is simple.

"In hopes that one day we can find a cure," she said.

Money collected will go toward cancer research and providing wigs and prosthesis for patients, as well as lodging and transportation to and from treatment.

"We want to raise as much as we can, but not just that. We want to focus on the survivors," she said. "They fought hard. They beat it, to this point. We want to recognize them."

Hayes said she believes there aren't many people today who haven't been impacted by cancer.

"It's sad to say more than likely, more will be."

For more information about Relay, visit www.taylorcountyrelay.com or call Hayes at 403-6204.

Richard Phillips' Poems

"Today"

Today could have been an anxious day but instead-it was truly a day of victory ... because today ... cancer lost!

Today, strengthened by the spirit of the other warriors fighting this disease with me and even those that have went before but have left a legacy of healing ... cancer lost.

Today on the wings of my Christian brothers and sisters whose prayers ruled the day and strengthened me with a peace that passes understanding ... cancer lost

Today, with the knowledge and power of the blessed physicians, nurses and technicians who fight this battle every day and are on the frontlines providing hope when there seems to be no hope ... cancer lost.

Today, I know there is still a long, hard battle ahead and in no way am I minimizing that but today ... we celebrate ... because today ... praise the Lord ... CANCER LOST!!!

-Richard Phillips

"Cancer, Your End Draweth Nigh"

Cancer, you are a coward. You attack babies, who have just started their life,

You attack children who shouldn't have a care in the world.

You attack young women and men in their prime.

You attack those of us who have just gotten to the point to enjoy life

And you destroy the golden years for many good folks.

But cancer, your end draweth nigh.

You come as a thief in the night and give us no warning.

You hide, creep and meander around just so we can't see you.

You lie to us and make us think all is good.

You are a slimy snake that hides in the grass and attacks when least expected. But cancer, your end draweth nigh.

Cancer, you have attacked me twice and others even more.

But cancer, you thought you could attack me alone but what you didn't expect was that I had a wife and family, my church, my hospital sisters and brothers, a doctor, a surgeon, an oncologist, an ER, radiology and surgery Department and a cancer center and an army of prayer warriors who are all stronger than you and cancer, you may beat me yet, but Romans 8:31 says "If God is for us, who can be against us?" and God is with EACH of the hero's I just named and even though I am unworthy, they and our Lord have claim over me-not you. _Cancer you have attacked countless millions just like me.

But cancer, your end draweth nigh.

Cancer, for years you went unchallenged but today there are so many new changes, updates and improvements in cancer treatments.

Cancer, every hero who has battled you in the past may not be here now but what they taught us allows those suffering now to suffer less and to have more birthdays and I honor them with all my heart.

My generation may not see the end of you but I believe with all my heart that my children will see the day that you are just a bad memory.

My grandchildren will read about you in history books along with other eradicated diseases like polio and smallpox.

Cancer, right now, somewhere there is a scientist locked in an unknown lab that is coming up with another cure against one of your types and because of her and heroes like her the tide is turning and now we are winning more than just battles, we are winning this war.

We may have lost our hair, have pale skin and we may even be limping or riding in a wheelchair, but we will fight you everything we can to the very marrow in our bones and know that we will NOT go quietly into the night but will fight you to our last breath!

Because Cancer, Praise God and all those who have fought against you, your end truly draweth nigh!

-Richard Phillips