Last Friday evening brought out the crowds for the annual Greater Derry/Londonderry Relay for Life at the Pinkerton Academy track. From the luminaria ceremony to the crowds camped close by, the Relay is an emotional, moving and strength-filled show of support for the fight – and the fighters – against cancer.
The Relay provides a triple focus – celebration of cancer survivors; remembrance of those who lost their battle; and solidarity of those fighting back and raising money for cancer research.
The Relay – and other events like it that raise money for the American Cancer Society – are a rallying point for those who have been touched by the disease, either personally or from someone they know.
And for those of us who work at this newspaper, that means Debra Paul, the owner of Nutfield Publishing and publisher of its three news- papers, the Londonderry Times, Nutfield News and Tri-Town Times, who received a breast cancer diagnosis in 2013.
Paul went for a mammogram because of a painful cyst, and the procedure found a cancerous growth. She had surgery March 28 of that year.
“When you receive a diagnosis of cancer, it’s a wicked psychological thing – you feel healthy, you look healthy, but it’s like you have an
alien living in your body that could be going anywhere,” she said.
She found that local medical providers – Derry Imaging, Parkland Medical Center, the Elliot and Dana-Farber – worked together seamlessly in her treatment.
If she has a message, it’s that “you can’t let it win. You can’t just sit and wallow. So I worked and kept busy.”
For Paul, that meant continuing her high-energy pace of working long hours and keeping true to her belief that nay-sayers wouldn’t get the upper hand. She credits that frame of mind for getting her through the experience, and is now almost three years cancer free.
With her support network surrounding her with strength and positive thinking, Paul returned to work five days after surgery. She called the support she received from staff, family, friends and local businesses a major factor in her positive outcome.
“I had that support, and without it, I could see how cancer could win,” she said. “It’s a mental game, and I chose to act as if it didn’t exist.”
While it’s sad that relays, golf tournaments and fundraisers of all sorts are necessary to fund the fight against cancer in a country as rich as the United States, it’s uplifting to see the hundreds of local residents who showed that support and strength as they gathered at the Pinkerton track last weekend.