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Real, live superheroes

There have been a few times in my career when I have been truly humbled and in complete awe of my surroundings.

In a career such as journalism, you have to develop the skills to be able to cover an event, regardless of the enormity. You have to be able to have the guts to be able to ask tough questions of anyone and everyone, regardless of their status in society.

But, one such event that had me in awe occurred just a few months ago here in Suffolk.

I had been asked to serve as this year’s honorary chairperson for the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life. I accepted and was asked to give a few comments at the kick-off event at the First Lady.

The men and women who sat before me at this event had either battled cancer, were currently battling cancer or were the loved ones of a cancer patient or victim. There were caregivers who stood beside cancer patients as they endured chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

In short, this was a room of people no one has the credentials to stand above.

During my remarks, I talked of two people who helped sharpen my commitment to Relay for Life and the two people I dedicated my Relay for Life service to this year.

They also happen to be two people whom I must mention on this Mother’s Day weekend.

The first was Mrs. Peggy Kelley – or Mrs. Peggy as she was often called – who is the wife of former Clanton Advertiser publisher Mike Kelley.

I had the distinct pleasure of working in Clanton for a number of years and learned most of what I know about community newspapers from Mike. It was Mrs. Peggy, who also served as the newspaper’s office manager and bookkeeper, who helped teach me the philosophy that if the office manager and bookkeeper isn’t happy, then no one is happy.

Together, the two of them were the most giving people I had ever come across in my career. In just two short years in working with them and for them, I was treated as one of their children, as were the others who worked there.

A few years ago, Mrs. Peggy waged a tremendously tough battle against cancer. The cancer she fought and the ensuing treatments took a lot out of this already small woman.

I vividly remember visiting her and Mike at their lake home after she had gone through a recent treatment and was taken aback at how frail she appeared.

But by the grace of God, the prayers of her friends and family and the tremendous dedication of her doctors, Peggy beat cancer and today is cancer-free. Each year she participates in the survivors’ walk at the Chilton County Relay for Life and is a shining example of what the money for cancer research has meant in the way of new treatments and medicines.

The other person I mentioned was my mother – Johanna Reeves.

Although she herself has never been diagnosed with cancer, she has stood by my father’s side as he has gone through treatments for a benign version of melanoma, enduring treatments every few months or so.

But before that, she helped wage a battle against cancer that hit my uncle and her youngest brother, Robert.

In 1996, Robert, living in Colorado at the time, was diagnosed with late-stage leukemia.

With his family by his side, he fought valiantly against the disease, which only showed itself when he went in for a regular checkup.

My mother, who was a high school teacher, stepped away from her job for a number of weeks and traveled out West to be with her brother. She was with him, his wife and two small children, as he went through treatments and even went through the testing procedures herself to see if she was a match for a potential bone marrow transplant.

They never had the chance.

Unfortunately, my uncle lost his battle, and my mother lost a brother.

So on this Mother’s Day weekend, I want to make sure I honor these two women in my life — my mother and my newspaper mother — for showing me what true strength truly is.

Next weekend, the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life will hold its annual event at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, and if ever you wanted to see what real superheroes really look like, make sure you attend.

The survivors’ lap and the caregivers’ lap are displays of true strength that you must witness.

TIM REEVES is editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. He can be reached at tim.reeves@suffolknewsherald.com