Too close for comfort

Published 10:17 pm Monday, February 22, 2010

Have you ever played the game “Six Degrees of Separation?” It is a game designed to figure out just how close someone is to another by the number of relationships between them.

Take me for example: I covered Coach Willie Carl Martin when he was the coach of Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City, Ala. He is now an assistant coach at the University of Alabama under Coach Nick Saban. So, therefore I am only two degrees of separation from Nick Saban. Roll Tide.

That game recently came to my mind, when I was asked to be the honorary chairperson of the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life. Someone referred to the honorary position as the person responsible to clean the dishes after the kick-off event at the First Lady. And based on the fantastic food at that single event, I would have done it just to eat that meal.

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In preparing my remarks, remembering that game quickly reminded me there often are not many “degrees of separation” between any one of us and cancer. Unfortunately, we all know someone very near and dear to us who has battled the disease, or we have ourselves had to fight it.

I have often written in columns or editorials — all of which gave my undivided support to local Relays for Life — that cancer is one of the only truly objective things in life. It doesn’t see race when picking a victim. It doesn’t base its decision to sicken an individual based on that person’s level of education or financial standing.

Cancer does not attack based on age or hometown. Cancer is ruthless and wages its war without emotion.

I have watched relatives and friends battle cancer. Some have fought and won, others have fought and lost. But, in each case I was amazed at the determination and fight each had in their battle and heartbroken by the strain placed on the friends and family.

In my speech to those at the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay, I dedicated my efforts in raising money for cancer research through Relay for Life is to the honor of my dear friend and cancer victor Peggy Kelley and in memory of a beloved uncle and cancer victim Robert Allenbach.

Their fights and their sacrifice – as well as the efforts of their immediate families – have continually inspired me in my endless support of this cause.

The single degree of separation between cancer and me fuels my motivation to support Relay for Life and to take the fight to cancer, rather than waiting for cancer to come to another one of my friends or loved ones.