Why We Relay

Fight Against Cancer Comes to Baldwin Hills


The American Cancer Society's Relay For Life is an incredible antidote to the pain and upheaval cancer brings. I know. My life was unexpectedly detoured into Cancerland several years ago, a place I hope never to revisit. It cost me a breast to get out.

I'm looking forward to the jolt of energy that will infuse me at Relay For Life of Baldwin Hills 2019, a wonderful, fun, educational and inspiring 24-hour event that includes the communities of Culver City, Ladera Heights, View Park, Windsor Hills, Crenshaw, and Leimert Park. It starts Saturday, June 22nd at 9:00 a.m. and ends Sunday, June 23rd at 9:00 a.m. at Yvonne B. Burke Athletic Field, 5401 S. Fairfax, Los Angeles, between Stocker and Slauson. Relay celebrates cancer survivors, remembers those we've lost, recognizes caregivers, and encourages us to fight back.

Volunteers are needed throughout this event, including to help with set-up on Friday, June 21st and take-down on Sunday, June 23rd . For more information, to volunteer, or to donate food, supplies, or services, please contact Madeline Wilson, madeline4493@gmail.com, (213) 407-1640, or Troy Green, troygreen@sbcglobal.net, (323) 353-6635.

To sign up and register, please go to http://www.RelayForLife.org/BaldwinHillsCA. You can also dedicate a Luminaria in honor or memory of a friend or loved one.

This year there will be an estimated 1,762,450 new cancer cases diagnosed and 606,880 cancer deaths in the United States. While cancer statistics are important, it's the individuals they represent that touch my heart. So many stories . . .

Jacqueline (Jackie) Furby truly embodies the old Timex slogan – she takes a licking and keeps on ticking. She became a cancer statistic back in 1986 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer after she felt something hard under her left arm.

"I had never had a mammogram and never did breast self-examination," she said. "My husband said to see a doctor. I was working for L.A. Unified, mentioned it to the school nurse, and she concurred. The doctor ordered a biopsy. I had a second and third opinion, and ended up with a lumpectomy on my left breast."

Jackie's first call to the American Cancer Society was after that diagnosis, following radiation but before starting chemo, and she obtained information about the chemo drugs. The organization's 24/7 telephone number is (800) 227-2345, and the website is http://www.cancer.org.

In the '90s she started doing the Revlon Run/Walk as her daughter had a friend that participated. Her cancer walks have also included Susan Komen and Making Strides. She asked her family and friends to donate, and raised substantial amounts.

Jackie did her first Relay after a member from church invited her. "When I started doing Relay I was impressed by the slogan, 'Cancer Never Sleeps,'" she said. "The American Cancer Society has been a great source of information for me, and I've gotten many materials from them."

Her second diagnosis came in 1998 after she felt a mass in her left breast, resulting in a mastectomy and chemo.

She was shocked to receive her third diagnosis in 2001, when calcifications were found in her right breast. A mastectomy followed.

While recovering, Jackie "read an article about Women of Color, called, and was invited to their December holiday luncheon. I wore a red suit, started attending monthly meetings in 2002, became very active, and have done a lot of outreach. On one of my cancer walks I learned that men got breast cancer too."

Her fourth diagnosis came after she and her son had gone to Staples Center in the summer of 2017 for a Sparks basketball game, and she collapsed. A number of tests followed, a small amount of fluid was found in her right lung and biopsied, and she learned the breast cancer had metastasized to the lung.

Medical problems ensued with Jackie's blood counts. In the summer of 2018 another PET scan disclosed more activity. Fortunately, her bone marrow biopsy was negative. Until recently blood was drawn twice a week, but now it's once. She is on blood pressure as well as cancer meds, since her cancer meds caused hypertension.

And in July of 2018 she collapsed in her kitchen with cardiac arrest, necessitating more surgery. Despite having had more than three strikes, this amazing and dedicated woman is still at bat and looking forward to Relay. She was team captain of Women of Color: Breast Cancer Survivors' Support Project for a few years until illness intervened around three years ago, but still participates in Relay as a team member.

Grace Bohannon, another Relay advocate, has seen the effect of cancer on her family and two "sister-friends": Jennie Mosley Gaines, mentioned below, and Nancy Dowdy Knight, whom she lost last year.

"A few years ago I was helping Jennie in hospice," Grace said. "She had inoperable cancer. I experienced abdominal pain during that time and Jennie urged me to check on it. I had a colonoscopy that disclosed a tumor, resulting in removal of the tail of the pancreas, part of the stomach, and the entire spleen. It wasn't cancer, but cancer runs in my family: colon, lung, and prostate."

After surgery she attended her first Relay in 2010 and became very involved. She was in charge of the Survivors Tent for about three years but in 2016 had a stroke, so that responsibility was transferred.

Grace's family participates in Relay as well.

"My niece, Lela, gives out medals to survivors after the Survivors Lap," she said. "Lela's father, Earl, who is my brother, is a prostate cancer survivor. And my other brother, Keith, had prostate and lung cancer."

Her advice to those diagnosed is to "contact other survivors. They will give you encouragement to counteract negatives. Concentrate on the positives, eat nutritious foods and practice healthy habits. Relay teaches so much to help those with cancer, or to prevent cancer. There are outstanding speakers on research and treatment. I am on a quest to save as many of our family members and friends as I can, and Relay has been a blessing."

I couldn't agree more. Come and see for yourself. I'll be there again as a member of the Green Team because, like Jackie and Grace, I want to do everything I can to prevent others from being hijacked into Cancerland and, if they are, to help them survive the journey. I'll be wearing a hat, its broad rim circled with ribbons bearing the names of those in whose honor or memory I'm walking, including those requested by my sponsors, so come on over, say hi, and let's work toward a world where more folks get to celebrate birthdays that aren't cut short by cancer.


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