‘We have hope’

Relay for Life goes under the rainbow at the Cole

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Related coverage
* Photo gallery – more than 1,400 images!
* April 29: Von Drehle gets on board Relay for Life train
* Relay for Life event website
* March 12: Relay for Life ‘off to a good start’

HAMLET — Twenty-six years and four months. Eleven years. Two months. One month. Still going through it.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

As those in the line of cancer survivors went to the microphone to introduce themselves and begin the celebration of life lap around the parking lot at the Robert L. and Elizabeth S. Cole Auditorium on the campus of Richmond Community College in Hamlet, the stories couldn’t help but make cancer something more than a series of statistics. The introduction of each survivor put a face and a name — and, at least for one night, a victory — in the battle against cancer.

Cancer can be a difficult subject to discuss; especially so when a young man is confronted with the type of cancer that, to many, can be uncomfortable to talk about. But for Matthew Poston, being able to ask a friend about a lump was a key to his survival.

His brothers, for example, continue to laugh.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Members of the Bold Moves Dance Company in Rockingham defied gravity in an effort to raise cancer awareness.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Members of the Bold Moves Dance Company in Rockingham defied gravity in an effort to raise cancer awareness.

“Basically, my life is really funny to them,” Poston, one of the featured speakers on the Cole Auditorium steps, told an audience of a few hundred people.

No one was laughing 17 years ago. In 1997, his grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. She died 10 days later.

In 2007, Poston’s father had surgery but in early 2008 began treatment for cancer. Later that summer, while Poston worked at Millstone 4-H Center near Ellerbe, noticed a lump on one of his testicles.

Though not something he’d ordinarily talk about — with anyone — Poston was concerned enough to mention it to a friend. The friend’s advice was direct: Go see a doctor.

“I got a little scared,” Poston shared. “I’m not gonna lie.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Matthew Poston, team captain for the West Rockingham Elementary School team and a cancer survivor, shares his story atop the Cole Auditorium steps.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Matthew Poston, team captain for the West Rockingham Elementary School team and a cancer survivor, shares his story atop the Cole Auditorium steps.

After an ultrasound, a urologist said the only way to biopsy was to remove a testicle. Poston said his reaction was immediate.

“‘I said, ‘uh, I don’t agree,'” Poston said.

But within a week, his fear was confirmed. It was testicular cancer.

Poston was told that there was an 80 percent chance of survival with radiation and 95 percent with chemotherapy. He chose the latter. Twelve months later, Poston underwent a CT scan for a regular checkup. The doctor noticed a lymph node had increased in size.

“It could be nothing, but it could be something,” the doctor told him.

It turned out to be something. For the second time in his young life, Poston was told he had cancer.

Since chemotherapy “sucked” — er, “stunk” — Poston chose radiation this time around.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Poston has been cancer-free since October 2009. While a teacher at West Rockingham Elementary School, he’s attempted to make the most of every day, as each one is anything but guaranteed. Poston, though, wasn’t done teaching. With the attention of his expanded classroom, he said his cancer survival wasn’t the point. Instead, Poston said, it was that he had someone to talk to about it in the first place.

Through his experience, Poston said he learned three things along the way:

* Take advantage of the support around you

“I’ve got the best parents in the world.”

* Be tough; Stay strong no matter the odds. On this, Poston said it’s alright to have one “life is unfair” moment.

“I had my moment of weakness after I found out I had cancer the second time,” Poston said.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A double rainbow seems to shield Cole Auditorium from any rain that might fall.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A double rainbow seems to shield Cole Auditorium from any rain that might fall.

But he pulled himself up by his bootstraps, so to speak, and got down to the business of being healthy.

* And, finally, love. Love is an action word.

“Take time and appreciation we are all blessed,” Poston said.

* * * 

Kelly Wheeler, for her part, reminded those in attendance that cancer can strike anyone at any time. She was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 5. Now 32, the Richmond County native spoke about the long-term effects of the life-saving treatments that can cause infertility, loss of limbs and even secondary cancers.

“The path to survival is a dangerous one,” Wheeler said.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Kelly Wheeler holds up her cellphone and suggests others take pictures of their friends, for tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Kelly Wheeler holds up her cellphone and suggests others take pictures of their friends, for tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Wheeler appealed to the younger crowd by holding up her cellphone and asking anyone in the audience to do the same thing — dozens did so. Take a picture of your friends tonight, she said, as no one knows who might be around this time next year.

“In an instant, life can change,” Wheeler said.

Youth groups entertained throughout the evening, including music from the combined choral groups from West Rockingham and Mineral Springs elementary schools, dancers from Bold Moves Dance Company and singers from the Second Baptist Day School Chorus and Silent Witness groups.

The Monroe Avenue Elementary School Chorus was in the limelight as the last bit of sunlight left the sky, followed by the Mount Sinai Baptist Church Tiny Tots and Mime group.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com A young boy follows through on his kick in the AC Rock soccer team's "kicking cancer" fundraising station.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
A young boy follows through on his kick in the AC Rock soccer team’s “kicking cancer” fundraising station.

The Richmond Senior High School Show Choir was scheduled to perform at 9:30 p.m. The event was to close at midnight with a “fight back” ceremony.

* * *

After Houston Griffith performed the national anthem and members of the Richmond Senior High School’s JROTC Color Guard displayed the colors, doves from Wings of Love flew out of a wooden crate to the delight of the crowd.

Johnny Clayton took the birds’ cue of peace and hope.

“Today we’re all here bucks of someone we know,” Clayton said. “Sometime in our lives, cancer is going to touch everyone out here if it hasn’t already.”

But there’s no need for doom and gloom.

“We have hope,” Clayton said.

 

 

 

 

 

Filed in: Education, Featured News, Hamlet, Health, Latest Headlines, News

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