One wouldn’t have known it by watching Melody Hayes lead the group of cancer survivors around the Elkin Municipal Park track at Friday’s Relay for Life, but she is still suffering from the shock of having just been told she has cancer again.
Hayes, a teacher’s assistant at Elkin Elementary School, was in the middle of her first treatment for breast cancer in October of 1998 when she received a call that her daughter, Danielle Wilson, was going into labor.
“They told me that I couldn’t go to the hospital,” Melody said, “and I went to the hospital anyway.”
Today, that grandson, Anthony “Tre” Propst, is 16 years old, and he joined Melody’s son and his uncle, Alton Propst, in accompanying Melody around the track. Melody’s husband, Alvin, also attended the event.
After completing a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation treatments 17 years ago, Melody had been cancer-free until about two months ago. That was when doctors discovered that the problems she was having swallowing were being caused by cancer in her esophagus.
She will return to the Forsyth Cancer Center in Winston-Salem Tuesday for the results of a PET scan she had on Friday. “So I will know exactly what stage it is and how they’re going to treat it,” Melody said. “It’s so surreal, but I’m trying to be at peace with it.”
Melody’s family was joined by students and faculty at Elkin Elementary in supporting her at the event. The school held a prayer circle for Melody Friday morning before she went for her PET scan, an imaging test that uses a radioactive substance called a tracer to look for disease in the body.
Each of the 50-plus survivors at the event had a story to share and friends and family there to support them. Before starting the first lap around the track, survivors took turns walking up to a microphone being held by Event Leader Sherry Chappell to share their type of cancer (several had more than one) and years of survival with those in attendance.
Many of them thanked God for being alive to participate. June Miller, a 25-year survivor, said she has no doubt that God cured her from uterine cancer because of the way everything fell into place upon being diagnosed. “God is good,” she said. “He is good.”
Miller said she was hesitant to share her belief with her doctors because they weren’t as willing to talk about the importance of faith in healing then. “It’s different now,” she said.
“Thank you, Lord,” said Theresa Reece while walking the first lap. “Without God, I would not have made it.”
Chappell, speaking at the opening ceremony behind a banner reading, “The Power of Purple,” said, “Our survivors are our super heroes. They’re giving us hope every day.”
In her fifth year as event chairperson, Chappell said she expects to be able to announce that the Surry Foothills Relay for Life met its goal of $22,000 once all the teams turn their money in by the end of August.
Attendance at Friday night’s event was higher than it’s been in several years, Chappell said. “I thought it was very, very successful,” she said.
Chappell said about 50 survivors walked the first lap of the event joined by at least 75 family members, friends, fellow church members and supporters from the community. One church had about 50 members on its team.
For Chappell, the most moving part of the event for her was the luminary service. She was only 22 when her mother, Beverly Sasser, died of brain cancer at age 40.
Chappell praised the musical performers at the event, including the Elkin High School Jazz Band, the Elkin High School Chamber Singers and rising Elkin High School freshman Dylan Longworth in his first public performance. “He’s just trying to get out there and play his music,” she said.
Team PVH raised money at the event selling food and raffle tickets for a quilt, which was won by Christine Mason. Ironically, Mason made a small quilt which was being raffled by the Yadkin Valley Cancer Kickers Team of the Chamber of Commerce.
Kathy Chaffin may be reached at 336-258-4058.