Friday evening brings the annual Relay for Life of Greater Derry Londonderry to the Pinkerton Academy track. From the luminaria ceremony to the crowds camped close by, the Relay is an emotional, moving and strength-filled show of support for the fight – and the fighters – against cancer.
The Relay provides a triple focus – celebration of cancer survivors; remembrance of those who lost their battle; and fighting back – showing solidarity and raising money for research in the cancer fight.
The Relay – and other events like it that raise money for the American Cancer Society are a rallying point for those who have been touched by cancer, either personally or from someone they know.
And for those of us who work at this newspaper, that means Debra Paul, the owner of Nutfield Publishing and publisher of its three newspapers, the Londonderry Times, Nutfield News and Tri-Town Times, who received a breast cancer diagnosis at the end of February.
Paul went for a mammogram because of a painful cyst, and the procedure found a cancerous growth. She had surgery March 28. “When you receive a diagnosis of cancer, it’s a wicked psychological thing – you feel healthy, you look healthy, but it’s like you have an alien living in your body that could be going anywhere,” she said.
She found that local medical providers – Derry Imaging, Parkland Medical Center, the Elliot and Dana-Farber – worked together seamlessly in her treatment. If she has a message, it’s that “you can’t let it win. You can’t just sit and wallow. So I worked and kept busy.”
For Paul, that meant continuing her high-energy pace of working long hours and keeping true to her belief that nay-sayers wouldn’t get the upper hand. She credits that frame of mind for getting her through the experience.
With her support network surrounding her with strength and positive thinking, Paul returned to work five days after surgery. “Of course it was uncomfortable and I was in pain, but I worked through it and didn’t take any pain medication, and we kept the papers open,” she said.
She called the support she received from staff, family, friends and local businesses a major factor in her positive outcome. “I had that support, and without it, I could see how cancer could win,” she said. “It’s a mental game, and I chose to act as if it didn’t exist.” On Friday evening, hundreds of local residents will be showing that same support and strength as they gather at the Pinkerton track.