Baxter, White have both faced storms in their lives

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 15, 2003

Even if the rain clouds threaten tonight, Judy Baxter and William White will lace up their walking shoes and join the people of Pike County who are "Racing for a Cure" for cancer.

Both have faced the storms in life that are brought on by the devastating disease. They have weathered the storms and are committed to doing all they can so that the dark clouds caused by cancer will disappear.

Neither Baxter nor White had a hint that cancer had invaded their bodies. Both looked healthy and felt great.

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In May 2000, Baxter went in for a routine annual checkup and the mammogram showed something suspicious.

She was called back the next day for an ultrasound and then a biopsy.

Then she heard the frightening word, "cancer."

"I was shocked," Baxter said. "Totally shocked. There was no history of cancer in my family, so I went in feeling good about myself."

The good feeling soon turned to shock, then fear and then the realization of what was happening.

"I was worried and I was scared," Baxter said. "But, I was also very blessed that my cancer was found early. It had not spread to the lymph nodes."

Surgery and radiation were necessary but Baxter was spared chemotherapy.

"Years ago, when a person heard the word, 'cancer,' there was not a lot of hope," she said. "Today, with early detection and new treatments, the chances of surviving cancer are greatly improved."

Baxter has joined a support group, Reach for Recovery. She often goes and talks with women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

"It helps so much to talk with someone who has gone through what you are going through," she said. "Everyone that I have visited has been very receptive.

You just don't know how it lifts your spirits to see a survivor walk through your door."

White was also bouncing through life in what he though was a healthy state when his wife called his attention to a mole on his back.

"I didn't even know it was there," he said. "But my wife thought it looked little funny. I went to the doctor just because she wanted me to. The mole wasn't painful and I probably wouldn't have noticed it for a long time if she hadn't mentioned it."

The "bad looking place" was diagnosed as melanoma.

"The doctor removed it in out-patient surgery and they thought they got it all," White said. "They said I was lucky that it was in the early stages of development."

In Nov. 2002, another "suspicious place" was found on White's chest. It, too, was found to be melanoma.

"The doctor said it was superficial, but it was still melanoma," White said. "They were going to take out a place about as big as a nickel, but it ended up being about the width of a baseball. The doctor said they got it all and, hopefully, they did."

White did not have to take radiation treatments and he said he is blessed that the surgery was able to remove the cancer.

"If those cancers had not been found early, I would have been in serious trouble," he said. "Because they were found, the surgery took care of them and I didn't have to have further treatment.

I was very fortunate. I don't even want to think about what could have happened if the cancer had not been found when it was."

Because of his close call with cancer, White now "preaches" the importance of annual checkups.

"Maybe it's because I'm getting older and maybe it's because of my scare but, either way, I tell everybody that will listen how important checkups are," White said.

Because Relay for Life raises cancer awareness and raises funds for research, education and advocacy, White and Baxter are strong supporters of the annual fund-raising campaign.

Both will take part in Relay for Life tonight beginning at 5 p.m. at the Troy State University band/soccer practice field.

A large crowd is expected to pack the field to celebrate the lives of those who have been called into the battle with cancer.

"If your life has been touched in any way by this devastating disease, join us … and be a part of finding a cure for cancer," Baxter said.