What began for Dorothy Cephas as a battle against cancer ended up as a 17-year war against the disease. Without her daughter, Gwen Mosley, and other members of her family and friends, she could not ha

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 16, 2001

For some, cancer is war, not a battle


Features Editor

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Going into battle, warriors want people with them who will be willing to literally "lay down" their lives for them.

Those are the kind of people who go into the battle against cancer with their loved ones. They fight with unconventional weapons of warfare – love, compassion, courage, kindness and, always unselfishly.

No one knows that better than Dorothy Cephas.

For 17 years she has been engaging the enemy. For 17 years, she has had family and friends at her side. They have fought the fight and they have shared the joy of each victory.

Mrs. Cephas was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1984. She accepted the "devastating" news better than her daughter, Gwen Mosley.

"Mother held up, but I broke down," Mrs. Mosley said. "When it’s your mother, it’s so hard to accept."

On the outside, Mrs. Cephas was the pillar of strength. On the inside, she was scared.

"I was scared – a little," she said. "When you hear the word cancer, it scares you. But I was scared more of dying. I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live."

Mrs. Cephas buckled up her chin strap and faced the enemy head on. She went through the surgery to remove part of her lung without any problems. Then, came the good news. No further treatment was needed.

"We went home feeling so thankful, so thankful," Mrs. Mosley said.

They also went home to hope and pray that the cancer didn’t reoccur. They went home to begin the five year wait that usually sounds the "all clear"

against a reoccurrence for a cancer patient.

"I did real good," Mrs. Cephas said. "I felt good and I just didn’t worry."

But, her family was always concerned "about mama."

Everything was fine for four years and the family was beginning

to feel optimistic about Mrs. Cephas’ chance to come into the five year stretch cancer free.


cancer is not a loud, boisterous disease. It often comes quietly and unnoticed.

In 1989, it came once again, to Mrs. Cephas, but not the way that might have been expected.

"Mother was diagnosed with cancer, but this time, uterine cancer," Mosley said. "Again, she had surgery and, again, we were so fortunate. She didn’t have to have follow up treatments.

Mrs. Cephas remained cancer free for five years and that milestone brought a guarded sign of relief. Maybe, just maybe, all of their payers had been answered.

The years passed – six, seven, eight. But, then cancer again invaded Mrs. Cephas’ body.

This time she was diagnosed with cancer of the urinary tract.

The cancer was surgically removed but radiation therapy was required and this time cancer did not stay away long.

In only seven months, cancer was found again. This time, Mrs. Cephas lost a portion of one of her kidneys and her bladder.

Also, a spot was found on her rectum which had to be removed. Radiation and chemotherapy were required.

Every day for seven weeks, Mrs. Cephas had to make the trip to Montgomery for radiation therapy. But, her church family at St. Paul A.M.E. and members of the Troy United Women’s League volunteered to drive her and members of Bethel First Baptist Church gave money for gas and they all gave her hope.

"You know, we just had fun," Mrs. Cephas said. "It wasn’t like I was going to a doctor. It was like I was going off with friends. They kept my mind off myself and they kept me in good spirits. They were a blessing to me."

Attitude is so important and

there were times when Mrs. Cephas’ needed the moral and emotional support of her family and friends.

She went through a period where she had absolutely no appetite and had to be fed through a tube. She was weak and tired and became depressed.

"I think probably all cancer patients go through that and it’s hard on them and on the family," Mrs. Mosley said. "You want to do something for them but they won’t eat and they get weaker and the weaker they get the more depressed they become. You want to lift them up but you can’t. She was so pitiful and there wasn’t anything we could do to really help her."

However, when the effects of the treatments began to wear off, Mrs. Cephas began to eat again. She slowly gained back some of her strength.

"When she started to feel better, she was less depressed and began to act more like mother," Mrs. Mosley said.


cancer treatment left Mrs. Cephas with a condition called neuropahty, which causes a tingling, numbing sensation in her fingers and feet.

"I can’t keep my balance very good but my cancer is in remission and I am thankful for every day," Mrs. Cephas said. " God’s mercy and my family and friends got me through. I couldn’t have made it without them and I love them for it and I thank them so much. They were so good to me – such a wonderful blessing."