“Common Ground” column for April 26, 2013

If you think cancer charity events are just about walking or running, think again. These events bring together a lot of courageous people who understand the words fight, struggle, support and faith.

A hypnotic Latin beat and a Zumba instructor used samba, mamba and hip-hop to help cancer survivors and their family members dance away some of their problems on a grassy field at a West Iberville waterfront park last Saturday.

I danced alongside a woman, Nancy Taylor, whose husband, Max, was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx in 2001 and succumbed to throat cancer six months ago. Relay for Life events have given Taylor hope, she told me.

Her eyes welled up when she described Max and his love for their three children and six grandchildren.

“He was one of the most wonderful and most loving people you could ever know,” she said. She rejoined the dance, laughing with me each time the instructor switched the steps.

Nancy cared for Max throughout his battle and along the way, she gained something unexpected.

“Since his death, the depth of my love is unbelievable. It’s a deep love that is not shallow. We’re all part of God’s creation no matter what we’re going through. It’s important to love people.”

In a separate Relay for Life cancer walk earlier this month in the northern part of Iberville Parish, I walked with families and people from our surrounding neighborhoods who have been affected by cancer.

My husband’s high school classmate, Wayne Hill, and his wife, Lisha, joined the walk. Wayne told us doctors gave him about 24 hours to live after he was diagnosed with cancer and kidney failure in August 2008. The former Grambling University star football player, said his cancer, multiple myeloma, a blood disease that affects the bones, is now in remission. He underwent chemotherapy, a successful stem-cell transplant and his kidneys are functioning normally, he said.

“We’re blessed that we can be here to talk about it,” Hill said. “Some people are embarrassed or ashamed about (cancer) but I figure the more people who know I’m sick, I believe the more people will pray for you.”

These walks are part of the support that survivors and family members look forward to. It’s a venue that provides a relaxing atmosphere for cancer survivors to talk. My husband and many of his family members also joined the walk in support of his mother who is battling leukemia.

Another set of walkers held a handmade sign in their mother’s memory. The sisters said they did not learn about their mother’s cancer diagnosis until after her death in the late ’90s. In that time, the sisters said they participate in cancer walks to honor her memory and to break the silence that surrounded her death.

Faith is one common thread that seemed to bind many of the caretakers of people with cancer and the cancer survivors together. I watched school teachers, bus drivers, plant workers and retired people sitting on park benches, sharing their stories and offering hugs and words of understanding during each of the Relay for Life cancer events.

Cancer is a difficult challenge, but with family, friends and faith, it is not insurmountable.

Chante Warren is a freelance writer for The Advocate. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.