Sporting for a cure

Published 11:59 pm Friday, May 8, 2009

Building on Relay for Life’s 2009 “sporting for a cure,” theme with camp sites devoted to fishing, golfing, racing and soccer, local teams celebrated those who have survived cancer, remembered those who lost the battle, and raised money to continue the fight.

As cancer survivors sporting survivors’ T-shirts and medals walked the first lap of Friday’s Relay, friends, family members and teams there to support them applauded their victory.

Fundraising totals weren’t available when The Star-News went to press. Prior to last night’s event, organizers said a total of $96,000 had been raised toward their goal of $113,000 for the American Cancer Society.

During opening ceremonies, several cancer survivors told their stories, and each participating survivor received a survivor’s medal before walking the first lap of the Relay event.

“As a teacher, 66 percent is not acceptable,” Stephanie Bryan said during the opening ceremonies. “As a mother, it’s a lot better.”

Bryan shared the story of her daughter, Straughn Elementary School kindergarten student Julie-Layton Bryan, who was diagnosed last fall with retinoblastoma, a rapidly developing cancer which develops in the cells of the retina.

When her daughter’s cancer was diagnosed last fall, Bryan said, the family first thought she might lose her eye. But she was accepted into a trial treatment program.

“Julie-Layton is participating in a clinical trial using intraarterial chemotherapy,” Bryan explained. The procedure puts chemo into the area where her cancer was located instead of treated her with systemic chemotherapy and radiation. She’s had four of these treatments.

“Her chemo is basically like a heart cath,” her mom explained. “They put a catheter into her groin and deliver the chemo to the back of her eye.”

Bryan said that at the beginning of the journey, the family had three goals.

“The first was to save her life. The second was save her eye. The third was save her vision.”

At present, they’ve achieved two of the goals, or 66 percent. Julie-Layton has no vision in her left eye, but the family hasn’t given up hope.

The family recently returned from New York, where she is being treated, with a great report.

“There are no active cancer cells in her left eye, and her right eye remains clear,” Bryan said.

Even though Julie-Layton is currently cancer free, her fight isn’t over, her mother said. The family will return to New York six times in the next 2 months. After clearing the one-year hurdle, they hope to reduce the visit to once every three months, then two times a year.

“We’ve gotten to the point of no cancer, but it’s really not over,” Bryan said. “And we’re going to keep praying that we’ll achieve all three of our goals.”

Bryan expressed her appreciation for the love and support shown her family in recent months, and for those who participated and supported the local Relay for Life.

“Events like this one raise money for the research that makes treatment possible,” she said.