‘We can see the pain’

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 11, 2005

Last May 21, Sylvia Fowler headed to Nansemond-Suffolk Academy for the annual Relay for Life event.

While battling breast cancer in 2002, Fowler had come up with the &uot;Purple Potty&uot; fundraiser, in which she would place a small purple toilet in the yards of friends and local businesses and leave it until they paid a small fee to have it removed. She’d been the top moneymaker in 2003 with a record haul of $5,200, apparently providing an inspiration for others, as her 2004 take of $6,600 was third for the year.

A year and a half after defeating the disease, Fowler started around the track with the rest of the survivors. Listening to the notes of &uot;Gonna Fly Now&uot; from the Rocky soundtrack echo around the track, she noticed some pain up and down her back.

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&uot;I could hardly get around the track,&uot; said Fowler, 53. The next week, she went to a doctor, and X-rays confirmed that a brand new, even tougher battle was about to begin; her cancer had returned in her spine.

&uot;I didn’t feel good,&uot; she said. &uot;I thought I was through with it. I could hardly get out of bed.&uot;

Since the first of July, she’s been going through chemotherapy three times a week, taking pills for weeks at a time, and having a bone treatment every month. That’s why local residents won’t be finding the toilet in their lawns this year.

&uot;When you’re taking chemotherapy,&uot; Fowler said, &uot;they attach a Mediport to your artery that releases the chemo into your body. When (the doctors) clean it, they have to flush out your system. That’s why I wanted to find a cure – to ‘flush out’ cancer. We need to find a cure so all these other folks don’t have to go through what I went through.&uot;

&uot;All of it’s hard,&uot; said Fowler’s niece, Tammy Motley, &uot;especially when she’s like a big sister or a second mom to me. I don’t know how to put it into words. It’s harder this time, because we can see the pain. We can tell that she’s hurting and see it in her voice.&uot;

Just because they can’t put out the potty, however, Fowler and Motley are still determined to raise money for people afflicted with the disease. From 2 to 4 p.m. on April 3 at the Bethlehem Christian Church at 1549 Holland Road, they’ll be holding a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The country/gospel group Taraleigh and Noteworthy will perform.

&uot;I can’t get out and take phone calls anymore,&uot; Fowler said, &uot;but we still have to raise money. I’ll beat it this time too, because my family’s helping me.&uot;

If unable to attend the event, those interested can send donations to the society in case of Fowler at 210 Staley Drive, Suffolk, VA, 23434.