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Get to know: Katherine Pond

Katherine Pond is committed to finding a cure for cancer.

A cancer survivor herself, this 70-year-old North Suffolk resident is team captain for the Nansemond River Baptist Church Relay for Life team and serves on the Relay board.

The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life is important to her — she lost her husband and sister to cancer, and she survived her own battle with breast cancer with the help of two medications that were funded with American Cancer Society funds. Pond’s story is one of having the determination to beat the odds.

Pond worked in downtown Suffolk for 30 years, but retired shortly after her husband’s death in 1999. The Ponds moved here in 1969.

“I’ve been here so long that it’s home,” she said.

After her husband’s death, Katherine Pond kept busy by taking public speaking classes. That ended, however, when she began to notice changes in her breast tissue.

“I had always had fibrocystic breast disease,” Pond said. The condition causes benign changes in the breast tissue. However, this time something didn’t feel right.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she made the decision to have a double mastectomy and begin the long, hard road of chemotherapy.

“No one can do chemotherapy alone,” Pond said. “You’re sick, you don’t feel like working. And I’m a workaholic.”

Pond’s friends and family, however, helped her pull through. Her friends called her regularly. People came to sit with her during the 2001 holiday season, after her last chemotherapy treatment.

“My last chemo was Oct. 1, 2001,” Pond said. “It took me until well after Christmas before I regained my strength. I was so discouraged.”

Pond also survived thanks to the help of Tamoxifen and Femera, both cancer drugs that were approved through the dedication of the American Cancer Society.

After her bout with cancer, Pond became active in Relay for Life.

“Too many of our friends are dying from it,” Pond said. “I realize how blessed I am.”

Relay for Life — which is set for May 14-15 this year in Suffolk — is an emotional experience for many of the participants, particularly survivors like Pond. Despite the challenges, Pond says the experience has made her a better person.

“It’s still very raw,” Pond said. “I won’t ever get over having cancer, nor do I want to.”

Pond’s group is in charge of luminaria sales at the Relay. The luminarias can be purchased in honor of a survivor, or in memory of someone lost to cancer.

“I never walk around the rink at NSA and see the names on the bags, that my heart doesn’t fall on its knees,” Pond said.

Organizers are always seeking donations and volunteers to help make the Relay happen.

“There’s one thing for certain — Relay cannot be accomplished without the help of many,” Pond said.

Money raised at this year’s Relay will help future cancer patients fight the disease, just as past Relays helped Pond.

“Life is so good, and it’s worth fighting for,” she said.