Archive for Sunday, May 31, 1998

CANCER SURVIVORS FIND STRENGTH AMONG FAMILIES AND FRIENDS AT THE FOURTH ANNUAL RELAY FOR LIFE AT THE HASKELL INDIAN NATIONS UNIVERSITY STADIUM THIS WEEKEND.

May 31, 1998

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The weeks following the birth of a baby can be a difficult but rewarding time for a family, full of moments that are committed to memory forever.

Amy Laughlin, Lawrence, can only relive some of those moments through photos after they were robbed from her mind by anti-nausea drugs in her fight against cancer.

Laughlin was 28 years old when she gave birth to her daughter, Emily, 17 months ago. During the six-week postpartum checkup, her doctor advised her to have a lump in her breast checked.

``I was really naive and thought (cancer) was an older woman's disease,'' said Laughlin, one of about 60 cancer survivors participating in the Relay For Life at the Haskell Indian Nations University stadium.

The diagnosis came a week before Christmas, and she had surgery New Year's Eve 1996.

``It's kind of funny. I had started working full time earlier that year and we were looking forward to a great Christmas. We had bought the kids more than usual,'' Laughlin said. ``Then the bottom of the world fell out.''

After a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and continuing drug therapy, Laughlin said a reoccurrence of the cancer is a possibility.

That reality often forces cancer survivors to re-evaluate their values and priorities, said Suzie Taylor-Meadows, who was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago. Taylor-Meadows, who works at the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, leads a weekly breast cancer support group, Bosom Buddies.

``When you face your death, you get the opportunity to re-evaluate,'' she said. ``How am I going to use my time, how can I make a difference?''

For Laughlin, that meant quitting her job and spending more time with Emily, as well as her son, stepdaughter and husband, G.R. Laughlin. They were all on hand to lend support Saturday afternoon at the American Cancer Society event.

``There are things I know I'll never be able to write in Emily's baby book because I just don't remember them,'' she said. ``But that's the trade-off. Hopefully, I'll be around for her for years.''

About 40 cancer survivors joined Laughlin for a ``survivor's lap'' around the stadium track, kicking off the fourth annual event in Lawrence. At least one member of the teams will be on the track from 2 p.m. Saturday until 8 a.m. today.

As the day wore on, a display of luminarias representing cancer survivors and cancer memorials grew. At dusk, the candles were lit as the names on the bags were read.

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is ckoger@ljworld.com.

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