Fighting cancer's color line

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

Cancer doesn't care about the color of a person's skin.

“No one is safe,” said Kim Crump, Lee County Relay for Life chairwoman.

This year, the Lee County Relay for Life organizers have made a special effort to bring more African-American groups into the effort.

Cancer is killing African-Americans at higher rates than other groups.

“I was startled that African-Americans have the highest mortality rates” Crump said.

Although all the reasons aren't clear, part of the problem seems to be many members of the African-Americans community are not getting the information and taking action to tackle cancer at the earliest possible stage, said Crump, who serves on the local patient resource network for the American Cancer Society.

“Knowledge is everything,” she said.

Someone else's problem

Until five years ago, cancer was something that happened to someone else for radio personality Stan Allen and his wife Sandra McIntosh, who have been recruiting new teams for the Lee County Relay for Life.

“We never thought it would be a part of our lives,” McIntosh said.

Five years ago, doctors told Allen he had a 40 percent chance of survival when they found a tumor in his sinus cavity; he credits God as well as the doctors with his life.

“Cancer is not always a death sentence; cancer is an awakening,” Allen said. “Giving up is a death sentence.”

Now, no one has to convince Allen of the value of the American Cancer Society and its resources.

“Once you become a survivor, you tend to recognize the importance,” said Allen.

When he had to go to Nashville for specialized treatment, the American Cancer Society helped with gas and provided a place to stay in a hospitality house. As he progressed through treatment, American Cancer Society representatives would call and check on him.

“They are very good at helping you,” McIntosh said.