Survivors united for cure for cancer

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Features Editor

Charles Synco’s family gave him strength. His faith gave him guidance. His medical treatment gave him a future.

Donna Schubert, chairperson of the 2002 Pike County Relay for Life committee, used those words to introduce Synco, honorary chair of the 2002 Relay for Life campaign. However, those same words applied to each and every survivor who attended the

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Pike County Survivor’s dinner Tuesday. And, another word that also applied was "blessed."

The large gathering of survivors was an indication that the efforts of a nationwide campaign to find are cure for cancer are paying off – that battles are being won. And, the large number of caregivers, who were there to support their loved one, was an assurance that these battles are not being fought alone.

Charles and Barbara Synco’s story was personal, but it was also a story shared by all who came together to celebrate their victories and to encourage and support the warriors among them.

"When I was asked to represent all cancer survivors by being the honorary chairman of this year’s Relay for Life, I was honored and humbled," Synco said. "Relay

for Life is such an important event for me.

"I am a two-year survivor. I

can truthfully say that I’m not the same person I was two years ago. I am now a member of ‘the club.’"

The "club" of which Synco spoke does not have a secret password or a special handshake. Members are not recruited. The ‘club’s’ membership is already too large, for the club is made up of people who have heard the words, "You have cancer."

"Club membership knows no boundaries," Synco said. "It doesn’t’ matter if you are 2 or 92. It doesn’t matter where your cancer was or what kind of treatments you had. It doesn’t matter if you were diagnosed 25 years ago or just last week. You are still a member of the club."

Synco said, for club members, every day is Christmas Day because everyone knows that every day is a gift from God.

"Every day the sun shines a little brighter and the grass is a little greener," he said. "Your family is more precious than it was before and those things that you used to worry about are no longer worth your time."

The greatest benefit of being in the club, Synco said, is being given a second chance to see how wonderful life really is.

"We know how getting a card in the mail

can make a dreadful day seem almost bearable," he said. "We know how humbling it is to have an elderly neighbor bring you a cake that she made just for you. We know how uplifting it is to have someone you hardly know tell you that they are praying for you."

Synco said club membership has changed the life of all its members.

"While none of us would have chosen cancer, had we been given that choice, cancer has made each of us a better person. And, we know that we are not now – or have we ever been – alone in our struggles."

Synco paid tribute to the caregivers who work every day taking care of those with cancer and the people who sit on the local board of the American Cancer Society working tirelessly to find a cure. And, as honorary chairman of the 2002 Pike County Relay for Life, he personally invited each survivor and their caregiver to participate in the Relay for Life event Friday night.

"My family and I have been involved in Relay since its beginning," he said. "But, there is a difference between going to Relay as a participant and going as a survivor. You will be moved by the people who cheer for you – for all of us – as we make that first victory lap. Relay for Life is just that

– it’s about life. And, as a club member you know that life is grand."

This year was the first time caregivers have been invited to the survivor’s celebration.

But, because a caregiver’s role is so important in fighting and winning battles with cancer, Schubert said the Pike County Relay for Life board members wanted to also honor them.

Barbara Synco penned the words that described the honor she felt at being able to be with her husband during his darkest days and the joy they shared together in his victory.

"These words floated around in my head until I had to put them on paper," she said.

These are the words she chose to express what it meant to have been a caregiver to her

husband, Charles.

"I was your caregiver. I was there with you when you heard those awful words, "It’s cancer."

‘I was your caregiver. I cried in the shower so you would not see me. In the middle of the night, I watched you sleep. I could not even begin to imagine my life without you.

"I was your caregiver. I meant it when I told you that bald is beautiful. And, I laughed when you said at least you didn’t have to worry about a bad-hair day.

"I was your caregiver. I told people in the grocery store that today had been a good day, and it had been. Yesterday you threw up six times, today only once.

"I was your caregiver. When you were down, my sole purpose in life was to lift your spirits. I was, and still am, your biggest cheerleader.

"I was your caregiver. Cancer invaded your body. Cancer invaded my soul.

"I was your caregiver. Out of all the people in the world, you honored me by allowing me to be an intimate part of your life when you were terrified that your life was about to end.

"I was your caregiver. And, you are my hero."