Contributed by Dana Seelye, Campus Librarian and Student Services Advisor
In the 1980s, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon in Tacoma, Washington, wanted to enhance the income of his local American Cancer Society (ACS) office. So, he decided to personally raise money for the fight by doing something he enjoyed: running marathons.* Dr. Klatt’s noble effort has since grown into the now global cancer awareness and fundraising event called “Relay For Life.”
Fort Worth Campus Continues the Cause
For the consecutive fourth year, our Fort Worth Campus has joined Dr. Klatt’s cause to try to bring an end to cancer, a devastating disease. This year, Fort Worth’s “Relay For Life” was held on April 27, 2012, at LaGrave Field, home stadium of the Fort Worth Cats minor league baseball team.
Eighteen faculty and staff members and their families took part in the Relay from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., raising more than $700 for the cause. Some came for the camaraderie, and others because of a sense of duty. And some, including Fort Worth Campus Registrar LaWanda Bessey, walked because they take the fight against cancer personally. “My father-in-law died on February 23, 2011, from cancer. We walk to hopefully help find a cure for cancer so others do not lose a loved one,” said Ms. Bessey.
“Cancer Does Not Pick and Choose”
Our Fort Worth Medical Assisting with X-Ray and EKG (MAX) Instructor J.D. Ham’s story is personal, too, because he himself is a cancer survivor. Indeed, as all of us know, “Cancer does not pick and choose who will develop the disease. It can strike anyone, at any time.”
Mr. Ham had been working in the medical field, including assisting cancer patients, for more than 20 years by the spring of 1999. Now, he was hearing from his physician that it was his turn.
At the doctor’s mention of stomach cancer, Mr. Ham remembers, “It was like a bell jar was placed over my head. I knew that people were talking to me, but all I heard was white noise.” It stayed like that for three years during his treatment, which included three surgeries – and finally, the removal of his entire stomach.
Incidentally, one can actually survive without a stomach (think of gastric bypass patients). Much of your digestion actually takes place in the intestines. Many times, a special diet is required, but Mr. Ham says that he can eat most things that he wishes to eat.
Helping Others Understand and Cope
Having weathered the storm of his battle with the disease, Mr. Ham one day found himself beginning to laugh for the first time in three years while completing an everyday task at the hospital where he worked.
Being a cancer survivor has helped Mr. Ham to understand his patients more, as he now has similar experiences to draw from. He recommends that cancer patients carry a journal and write down instructions as well as their personal feelings and experiences along the journey. Mr. Ham’s advice for staying positive is: “If it becomes your turn, pick up your badge and wear it well.”
As it does for countless others, the “Relay For Life” means a great deal to Mr. Ham. He finds it to be “the only cause of its kind that does not discriminate in its support for prevention of the various types of cancer.” Mr. Ham adds, “The relay is also a milestone for survivors and their families. It is one more year that they can say they have ‘made it’ to walk again.”
This May marked Mr. Ham’s 13th year in the “Relay For Life”: two years representing our Fort Worth Campus, and some of those years pushing newly diagnosed patients and friends around the Relay track.
Since it began 28 years ago, the “Relay For Life” has hosted more than 5,200 events in the U.S. and has raised more than $4.5 billion to help save lives.*
Dr. Gordy Klatt
Recently, the Relay’s founder, Dr. Gordy Klatt, reported in an email to ACS staff that he, too, has been diagnosed with stomach cancer and is currently beginning his battle with the disease via chemotherapy.* So now, for Dr. Klatt, it’s even more personal.
The Fort Worth Campus looks forward to next year’s event. It only takes one person to make a difference, and we want to be the one.