Family finds special meaning in Relay
Each year, the Eudora Relay For Life committee tries to motivate individuals to participate and help raise money for the American Cancer Society. But Tina Payne's motivation is built in.
Payne has been a participant in the Relay For Life since the tradition began in Eudora in 1998, and a committee member for the last four years. Her own experiences with cancer and the deaths of several of her closest loved ones keep her involved each year.
Months after completing her most recent round of cancer treatments, Payne plans to walk the survivors' lap at next week's Relay For Life. The Relay is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 10 to 7 a.m. June 11 at Laws Field. A survivors' dinner will be June 10, before the beginning of the Relay.
Payne was 19 and a student at Kansas University when she noticed the right side of her neck was constantly sore.
"One day I woke up and it was really swollen," she said.
After a visit with Eudora's Dr. Kenneth Holladay, Payne was sent to an ear, nose and throat specialist in Lawrence. Doctors discovered a tumor in her neck larger than a golf ball, and she was scheduled for a biopsy. But, out of a fear of needles Payne put off having the test done as long as she could.
After two more months, Payne decided it was time to face her fear and have the tests done.
"When they got in, they found out it was cancerous," she said.
Payne was diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma and began treatments immediately.
"I couldn't talk for almost 18 months because my vocal chords were so swollen," she said.
After 40 radiation treatments, the tumor was eliminated and her cancer was gone, but the treatments had damaged her throat, jaw bone and thyroid. Payne said she would take calcium supplements and thyroid medication for the rest of her life to combat the damage done by the treatments.
"It wasn't the easiest thing to do, but I'd rather it be me than one of my really good friends or family members," she said.
Unfortunately, Payne could not ensure that her own battle with cancer would protect her loved ones from the disease. Her father died from kidney cancer when Payne was a teenager, and her stepfather died earlier this year from lung cancer.
A few years ago Payne got a call from the mother of Devin Moore, a Richmond man had been her best friend for years. The two grew up next door to each other and were very close. Moore was diagnosed with the same type cancer Payne had. But Moore's cancer had not been detected early enough and spread to his brain.
"Essentially, he was dying," she said. "He was way past help."
Payne called her friend at least once a week to check up on him and to try to keep him encouraged.
"That's the only way they could get him to eat," she said. "I basically held his hand long distance."
Moore died in November 2000.
Through everything, Payne has had to have treatments for lung cancer and, more recently, breast cancer. She said the lung cancer was caught at "stage zero" and was quickly treated.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in January and finished treatments for it in April. Her cancer is now in remission.
"I hope to God I stay that way," she said.
Payne's husband, Sheldon Payne, has been in Taji, Iraq, with the Army National Guard since October. He was home for a visit for most of May, but has returned for the remainder of his deployment. Payne said he might be home for Christmas, but his tour might not be complete until May 2006.
Payne said receiving cancer treatments while her husband was gone was hard, especailly with the added responsibility of raising her children without their father around.
"My treatments were in the morning, and I had to take the kids with me twice or three times a week," she said. "It was something that became part of our routine."
Payne said she thought her kids were too young to understand the effects cancer had on their family, but with the death of their grandfather in January she decided they needed to know.
"When grandpa passed away, we had to talk to them about it and let them know what was going on," she said.
But Payne's boys didn't have to fully understand before they were willing to help their mother in her efforts with the Relay For Life. Her sons have participated in the Relay by helping fill luminary bags with sand in preparation for the event.
"We do this for a reason. We do this as a family," she said. "It's an event that's really close to my heart."