After devastating loss, family supports Relay for Life

Staff Writer
Geneseo Republic

I write a letter each year to promote the fund-raising efforts for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life.  Our family suffered a devastating loss when my sister lost her battle to an inoperable brain tumor at age 37 on July 4, 1995.  

Our team, “Miracles for Melinda,” was formed to keep her memory alive, to raise funds to help find a cure and to raise awareness of the lifelong effects on the patient as well as their family.

Cancer does not discriminate and has no borders. In many cases, cancer is no longer a “terminal illness,” it is just another disorder that needs to be treated. While great strides have been made, there is more work to be done.  

Every year, our team hopes and prays that our efforts at fund-raising in some small way will some day eradicate cancer. We hope and pray that our children and grandchildren and future generations will not have to face the words, “You have cancer.”  

Relay for Life is a time for us to celebrate people who have battled cancer and won; remember the loved ones lost to cancer; and fight back to end the disease that has already taken too much. 

This community event raises funds and awareness, and inspires hope that can transcend any threat cancer poses. Thanks to the fund-raising efforts to date, countless lives have been saved, suffering has been reduced and volunteer efforts have provided support, hope and healing for patients and families around the world.

Our family has been hit hard by this disease. First, my father has had several episodes of skin cancer that were treated and cured with surgery and radiation therapy. Then my sister was diagnosed at age 31 with an inoperable brain tumor, went through radiation therapy, had about four good years after radiation before she had a reoccurrence, went through chemotherapy and passed away. The last 12 months of her life were the hardest to watch. She lost ground every day, no matter how hard she fought to beat this dreadful disease.  

She lost her battle at about 9:30 p.m. on July 4, 1995, amidst the fireworks that we could hear outside her window at my parent's home, where they cared for her 24/7.  

She left behind a 7-year-old daughter, her husband, her parents, her two sisters and brothers-in-law and three nephews.  

I have also had two episodes of skin cancer cured by surgery, and then in 2003 at age 46, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I was very fortunate, I had surgery and all of my colonoscopies since that time have been clear of disease.  

I often wonder why I was spared, but I think it is now my job to get the word out on early detection of colon, breast, bladder, prostate cancer, etc. Many tests that should be done to avoid or detect cancer early, such as colonoscopies, mammograms, PSA's, etc.  

We continue to have hope that there will be an end to this disease in our lifetime. Unfortunately, this past year, cancer struck again. My father was diagnosed with bladder cancer.  

Thanks to his wonderful doctors, Dr. Mobley, Dr. Movva, Dr. Harson, Dr. Schrier, Dr. Marogil and the great care he had at Trinity Medical Center, he has done very well. We would also like to thank Dr. Mario Sy for his wonderful care as well. My father has kept his spirits up and continues to hope that his current chemotherapy regimen will eradicate his disease.  

My mom has done a great job caring for him, and I try to be there whenever I can as well. My husband and boys have also helped with tasks around the house. We are also grateful for their wonderful neighbors, Kay and Tom O'Brien. They have assisted with transportation, etc. 

Our family and all of my Dad's friends who call him, my mom's friends for all they have done and my friends, family and co-workers have done so many things to help during my Dad's treatment journey. We also appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers.

We continue to have faith and hope that this disease will be eradicated; however, it takes all of us to assist with fund-raising to find a cure for all cancers. It is very hard to find any family which has not been impacted by cancer in some shape or form. If your family has not been impacted, my hope and prayer is that you will never have to experience the devastating effects of this disease.  

I have a dream of a time where treatment will not be necessary, that there will be ways to prevent all cancers.

The Northwest Henry County Relay for Life is being held on Friday, July 31, and Saturday, Aug. 1, this year at the Old Athletic Field in Geneseo. My family and I will be walking the track in memory of my sister and in honor of my dad and others who are currently going through treatment to beat this disease. 

 It will be a time for our community to come together to hope for the future, celebrate, remember and fight back to ensure a future free of cancer.  

Together, we will continue to “walk in the footsteps of one man, and every step brings us closer to the day when no one has to hear the words, ‘You have cancer.’”  

If you would like to make a donation, please make your checks out to: The American Cancer Society and send to: Mary?Wassell, 349 Red Oak Ct., Geneseo,?IL 61254; or Doris Williams, 556 26th Ave. Ct., East Moline,?IL 61244.

We appreciate your help for this worthy cause.

Mary Wassell, Geneseo