Charles Synco: A clear voice against cancer

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Features Editor

When Charles Synco takes the microphone May 18 to read the names of cancer survivors during the Relay for Life Luminary Ceremony, he will do so with a strong, clear voice and a very thankful heart.

On the day of last year’s Relay, Synco was diagnosed with cancer of the throat. Had it not been for early detection, in all probability, his ability to speak would have been lost to the disease.

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He knows he has been blessed and he never intends to take anything for granted anymore.

Now, there is always "something" in the back of his mind that reminds him that there are no guarantees of tomorrow. Every day is a blessing from God.

"Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I never really thought that it might happen to me," Synco said. "I was very aware of cancer and how many people it affects. We had lost my wife’s mother to cancer and Barbara and I had been involved in Relay for Life for several years. But I just didn’t think about cancer … and me."

In the spring of 1999, what started as a "frog" in Synco’s throat became a persistent hoarseness.

"Everyone was having colds, coughs and hoarseness and that’s what I thought I had," he

said. "When the hoarseness didn’t go away, I knew I should see a doctor, but I didn’t right away. Barbara finally coaxed me into going."

About two months after the onset of the hoarseness, Synco did seek medical attention.

The doctor found a wart on his vocal chord and, although he didn’t actually say the word, cancer, both Synco and his wife realized there was a possibility that it could be.

The wart was removed and the lab work reveal mildly dalsic cells. Hopefully, the wart would not come back.

But, it did and was removed a second time. This time the news was not as good. The lab report showed carcinoma insitu. Hopefully, this time the wart would not reappear.

It did.

"This time the results of the lab work showed I had microvasive squamous carcinoma," Synco said. "Once it was removed I had to undergo radiation treatment to hopefully prevent it from coming back a fourth time.

Synco said the type cancer he had was not life threatening, but it was life altering. He was in danger of losing his voice completely.

"With radiation treatments, there was a good chance of the eliminating the cancer," he said. "I underwent 33 radiation treatments in Dothan and I was very fortunate that I was not sick a day. I would drive myself to Dothan, take the treatment and come back

and work the rest of the day."

The doctors told Synco that the hoarseness would get worse during the radiation treatments, so he tried to prepare himself for that. Instead, midway through the treatments, his voice began to improve.

"I was surprised and the doctors were totally amazed," Synco said. "That had not happened before. They couldn’t explain it."

Neither could Synco explain it, but he believed he knew why it happened.

"So many people were praying for me," he said. "My family and friends, my church family at Park Memorial and I was on the prayer list in churches all over Pike County. So many people were praying for me and those prayers were answered. Prayer play a big part in my recovery."

In a short time – about two months – Synco was back singing in the choir at Park Memorial.

"Not with a great voice, but with a very grateful voice," he said, with a smile. "My cancer was diagnosed in May and the choir started practicing for the Christmas cantata in September and I was able to be there with them. I was very blessed. I am very blessed."

Early detection, a positive attitude, medical technology, the skill of doctors, the knowledge of researchers, the power of prayer and the grace of God – all of those things together produce positive outcomes for those like Charles Synco, who proudly and thankfully say, "I am a cancer survivor."

"I was honored to be asked to read the names of cancer survivors at Relay for Life this year, " he said. "Last year, I was just beginning to know how it feels when you are facing cancer yourself. It’s a scary feeling and you have to depend on the skill of others and the strength of others and your faith to get you through. This year, I can thankfully say ‘I am a cancer survivor.’ And, thankfully, I can say it with a clear, grateful voice."

The Luminary Ceremony is the most moving event of Relay for Life. As the survivors make the first lap, they do so to the applause of grateful family members, friends and neighbors. And, many tears of joy are shed.

And, among those many thankful people, there will be some who will be diagnosed with cancer before Relay for Life 2002. And, because of advances in detection and treatment of the disease, they, too, will be able to say, "I am a cancer survivor."

"You never know where cancer will strike," Synco said. "But, we do know that there are thousands of people who are fighting every day to find a cure. I am proud to be a part of that fight by being a part of Relay for Life."

Charles Synco’s voice is heard – loud and clear.