Two-time cancer survivor cites benefits of Relay for Life

Vera Durbin is a two-time survivor of cancerand looking and feeling great! However, she realizes the battle against cancer and the quest for the prevention of and cure for the dreaded disease must go on.

Therefore, she is a worthy advocate for the Fayette County Relay for Life, which will take place June 7-8 on the Vandalia Community High School track.

The National Relay for Life began approximately 20 years ago in Tacoma, Wash., and this is the 11th year for Relay for Life in Fayette County.

Durbin remembers being diagnosed with uterine cancer.

In December 2001, I had some pain in my abdomen, she said. Following an exam at the hospital, she was told she had a tumor. They said I had to go to St. Louis tonight, she said.

My daughter-in-law took me that night, and three days later, I had major surgery. It was ovarian cancer, and they did extensive surgery. I came home and went through six chemotherapy treatments.

Then, there was no evidence of cancer for about 16 months. Then I had blood work and it showed an elevation of cancer activity. I went back, and (learned that) I had another tumor, still in my abdomen, Durbin said.

It never went anywhere else. I had four treatments, then surgery again to remove it, and then four more treatments. Now it has been 3 1/2 years without cancer, she said.

I fought it twice, Durbin said. I fought it hard, and it wasnt easy, she said.

But the cancer will kill you. The treatments wont kill you, although you think it might, she said with a smile.

There is no early screening test, at present, for ovarian cancer. The Pap test catches cervical cancer, but not ovarian cancer. If you just happen to catch it thats what happened to me, she said.

I didnt have any real symptoms. But you have to be in tune with your own body. I had some symptoms, looking back, but I really didnt think much about it. The symptom I remember the most was heartburn. I was taking over-the-counter medicines.

She advises anyone who has recurring heartburn or any other problem to be checked by their doctor.

She is living a healthy lifestyle, with exercise and a healthy diet, and is even taking karate lessons. Every day is a good day, a marvelous day for me, she said. Her beaming smile confirms her words.

Relay for Life

Durbin is a proponent for Relay for Life, which helps the American Cancer Association put a lot of money into research.

And research is the only way we can fight this disease, Durbin said.

From the first time I had cancer treatment to the second time I had treatment, they had come up with a new drug in less than two years. she said.

They come up with new treatments and drugs every year, and its not just chemotherapy drugs they are coming up with, she said.

The second time I had cancer, they had a new anti-nausea drug. It was so much better; I was still sick, but it was so much better.

And while Relay for Life is a fundraiser to help fight cancer through research, it is also beneficial to survivors just to be together.

Just being there the night of Relay, with all the other survivors and seeing that all of these people, like me, are survivors, helps me. There are survivors there from just newly diagnosed to 40-year survivors, Durbin said.

When I see those people who have survived for 40 years, I think I can do that, too. Its been 6 1/2 years for me since I was first diagnosed..

Besides helping to fund research, Relay for Life helps provide free wigs for people with cancer. If you arent sick enough to be admitted to the hospital while you are receiving treatment, they provide a room for you near the hospital.

Durbin urges everyone to come out to the Relay.

Its not just for survivors. There is a survivor tent with all kinds of information available. There are booths with food and drinks, and all kinds of things. There will be an auction with many items, including Cardinals baseball tickets, valuable gift bags, bags containing manicures, pedicures and massages.

The teams are currently selling raffle tickets with three really nice prizes, she said.

First prize is an overnight stay at the Pierre Marquet Lodge in Grafton, including a gas card; second prize is dinner certificate for Firefly in Effingham and a certificate for Rosebud Theatre; and third prize is a restaurant tree, with certificates for the restaurants in Vandalia. Tickets, at a dollar each may be obtained from the team members or Peoples Bank.

The luminary service is a very moving experience. Luminaries are available to memorialize those who have died from cancer or honor cancer survivors. Luminaries may be purchased through any team member or at Peoples Bank.

They are also selling ribbons that are placed with cards on the trees along the track. Awareness posters will be placed along the track.

Durbin urges everyone to take a walk for your health and view the ribbons along the track.

She especially urges everyone to come out to the Relay for Life, to enjoy the entertainment, music, activities for children, food and informational boothsand to help fight cancer.

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