Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jennifer Little was named Caregiver of the Year at the 2013 Relay for Life Survivors Dinner. Little is pictured with her daughter Carrie Little.

Jennifer Little was named Caregiver of the Year at the 2013 Relay for Life Survivors Dinner. Little is pictured with her daughter Carrie Little.

More than 100 gather to honor caregivers, survivors at Relay event

On any given day, 72 people in Alabama will hear the words, “You have cancer.”

Sharla Davenport, 2013 Pike County Relay for Life chair, said that most of those who gathered at the Survivors Dinner Tuesday night at Park Memorial United Methodist Church had, not only heard those words, but have lived them.

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“Cancer affects everyone in some way. That is why we Relay,” Davenport said.

“The words, ‘You have cancer’ are just as devastating for the loved ones of a cancer victim as they are for the victim.”

Paul Little was only 25 years old when he was told that he had brain cancer. Seven years later, he was told that the cancer had come back.

Twice, Paul and Jennifer Little heard the words, “You have cancer.”

Paul Little lost his battle with cancer in 2012. On Tuesday night, Jennifer Little was recognized as the 2013 Pike County Relay for Life Caregiver of the Year.

She was nominated by Kay Franklin who was witness to the dedicated, kind and loving care that Paul Little received from his wife.

“Jennifer is one of the strongest, most loving people that I know,” Franklin said. “She made sure that Paul spent the last years of his life doing the things he loved – riding four-wheelers, going to the beach and spending time with friends. He was Jennifer’s heart and she built her life around him and their daughter, Carrie.”

Franklin said that Jennifer never stopped one moment to think about herself.

“I never heard Jennifer complain or question anything,” Franklin said. “She made sure that Paul was cared for. I learned so much about life and love from them.

“In Paul’s final days, Jennifer would lie on the bed with him and hold his hands. It must have been such a comfort for Paul to know that Jennifer loved him unconditionally and more than life.”

Tammy Powell, the 2013 Pike County Relay for Life honorary chair, knows, too, about the role of a caregiver and how important that care is for a cancer patient. She knows how loving care can lift spirits and bring light into very dark days. She knows, too, what it’s like to be cared for by a loved one in the heat of the battle with cancer.

Powell’s Relay journey actually began along a country road near Wicksburg when she was only three years old.

“My granddaddy was a country doctor and I often went with him on house calls,” she said. “One man we went to see didn’t have a nose. He just had two holes on his face. My granddaddy told me had cancer. I can remember that day as if it were right now.”

Powell’s Relay journey continued when she was the counselor for the Brundidge United Methodist Youth group and they participated in the Relay for Life campaign at Troy State University.

“Back then you had to Relay all night and we stayed all night,” Powell said. “My Relay journey didn’t become personal until the year 2000. I lost my mother and my daddy both from lung cancer.”

Then, in July 2011, Powell heard the words, “You have cancer.”

“Cancer is very personal. It’s private,” she said. “But, you can’t make that journey alone. You have to have a support team. You have to have someone to share the journey.

“I had Eddie and Heather and Eric and they were there for me at every turn. And, I had my church friends and Extension friends and so many others who helped me along the journey – who helped me make it through.”

Powell said she would not have chosen to make that Relay journey but she was witness to the doctors and nurses who were dedicated to the fight against cancer. She met so many wonderful people along the way who were making the same journey and they drew strength from each other and found hope in each other.

Powell closed with a poem that she found by accident … or, perhaps it was fate that it was found.

“The title of the poem is ‘One,’ Powell said. “I don’t know who wrote it but I want to share it.”

“One tree can start a forest; one smile can begin a friendship. One hand can lift a soul; one word can frame a goal. One candle can wipe out the darkness; one laugh can conquer gloom. One hope can raise spirits; one touch can show you care. One life can make a difference. Be that one today.”