Relay for Life benefits cancer survivor
For DeSoto resident Charlene Braley, the annual Relay for Life walkathon is about more than a night of fun with her friends. It's about finding a cure for the disease that has attacked her body on three separate occasions.
Braley was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1990 after a routine visit to her doctor. She didn't know much about the disease at the time, which actually helped her get through the surgery and six months of chemotherapy that followed.
"I didn't know how serious it was. I think that enabled me to get through it without being too scared," she said.
But the experience was a trying one.
"The first time, I got sick after every chemotherapy treatment," she said. "I had to stay in the hospital overnight. I would go in on a Thursday, stay in until Friday and then come home and be sick all weekend. I planned my schedule around what I knew would be my sick weekends."
Following the treatments, Braley got some good news. The cancer was gone.
Five years later the news wasn't as good.
"In the fall of 1995 I began having some pains in my side," she said. "I found out the ovarian cancer had metastasized to my liver."
The second time around, Braley was prescribed twice as many chemotherapy treatments. Thanks to medical advances, however, the treatments didn't make her as sick as they did the first time.
"It got easier because of a new drug they had available," she said. "I didn't have to stay in the hospital overnight."
Things appeared to be looking up for Braley after that. She made it through 1997 with no signs of cancer. She learned during that year, however, just how far reaching the disease can be.
She noticed a knot on the stomach of her dog, Muffet. She took him to a veterinarian who identified the knot as a mast cell tumor.
"That happened during my good year," she recalled.
Muffet underwent two surgeries and today is doing fine.
The next year Braley had what she described as "an inkling something was wrong." She went back to her doctor to find her cancer had returned a third time.
After 12 rounds of chemotherapy, Braley was cancer-free once again.
Last October her doctor noticed a few dark spots on her liver. As a precautionary measure, he removed half of her liver and gave her four more chemotherapy treatments.
Since that time, her check-ups have been good, but she's not planning to let her guard down.
"There's no cure for ovarian cancer," she said. "There's never a time when you say 'it's all over.'"
Braley hopes that will change someday and does what she can to help the cause. She's walked in the Relay for Life for the past three years, the past two in DeSoto and once before in Leavenworth. She plans to walk again this year and as many years as she can after that, until there's a cure for the deadly disease.
The walks mean so much to Braley, she scheduled her blood transfusion before last year's event so she would have the strength to participate. Muffet has walked alongside her for the past two years.
"The survivors all wear a certain color T-shirt, so I made her a shirt to wear too," Braley said. "I don't know what color we're going to wear this year, but I'll make her another shirt when I find out."
A kick-off meeting for DeSoto's Relay for Life will be held 8:30 a.m. April 29 at the community center. Team packets and details of the event will be provided.
Braley hopes the turnout is large. She knows the money raised will make life a little easier for herself and others like her.
"There's always hope that someday there will be a cure for what I have," she said.