WILMINGTON — “Sooner or later, they’re going to find a cure. Sooner or later, we’ll not have to worry about hearing those words, ‘Well, I think it’s cancer’,” said Randy Riley in a speech he gave at the Relay for Life Kickoff Meeting on Saturday.
Clinton County’s Relay for Life will take place at 11 a.m. June 23 at Denver Williams Park in Wilmington.
Riley’s speech, held at the United Methodist Church, detailed his personal experience with cancer survival and that of other family members.
“How many of you here have never been touched by cancer, either you personally or through loved ones?” asked Riley.
The question was answered with no one raising their hand, which to Riley spoke volumes.
“Everybody in this room has been touched, drop kicked, smacked around, beat up, and spit out by cancer. It is one of the most horrible things that we have gone through,” he said.
His own cancer story started in 1977 when he was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma. He recalled Dr. Ruth Hayes looking at the mole and later informing him that he had Clark’s Level 3 Malignant Melanoma.
For treatment, he ended up having a “really bad golf divot” in his back in order to remove the mole. He encouraged attendees if they see a mole that’s changing shape or color to have it removed.
“Just have it off. You don’t need that mole,” he said.
After the surgery, he decided to dedicate more time to his family and his community.
“Since then I’ve gotten involved in a tremendous amount of things,” he said. “But I date that back to February of ‘77 when I thought I may not have many chances to say yes.”
He spoke of other family members who survived cancer and walked with him at Relay for Life, including his mother and his now four-year-old grandson Clayton.
“You’ve seen me carrying Clayton in the last three Relays which, for a Pappy, that’s tough,” he said.
The first time he carried Clayton in a Relay was when he had recently had surgery to remove his right eye where he was infected with Retinoblastoma. Since then he now looks forward to Relay for Life because, according to him, Clayton and Pappy get to walk.
He told the audience when Clayton was deemed cancer-free after six months of chemotherapy, he recalled some encouraging words from Dr. James Geller after Riley said Clayton was going to be a “normal one-eyed boy.”
“Dr. Geller went, ‘No, he’s going to be a normal little boy. There’s nothing that he can’t do that any two-eyed boy can do.’”
For more information about Relay for Life, visit relay.acsevents.org or go to the Facebook page for Relay for Life of Clinton County.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574