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Shining beacons of hope
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For more than four years, a young fellow named Josh Turner has accompanied me on my ride to Atlanta.

Josh is a colleague and a friend. We spend a lot of hours in a car, more when traffic is bad.

He has heard nearly every story I know. Sometimes, the glazed over look in his eyes are a plea for them to end soon. In the last year or so, he has reached the point if I launch into a repetitive story, he looks at me and says, “Heard it.”

We were talking about things the other day and he gave an incredible compliment. He told me he wished he had known my mama. He’s heard her story a time or two.

My mama was a character. She always used “double” before repeating letters in a word. Sometimes she would share some news event with me and I would ask where she heard it. “C-double-N,” she would reply.

She would spell my name H-a-double-r-i-s B-l-a-c-k-w-double-o-d.

We were driving past CNN the other day and Josh pointed it out.

“There’s C-double-N,” he said, laughing.

I thought about Mama this week. I spoke to a group of Hall County folks who are cancer survivors. I wish she could have been there. Not because I made a profound speech, but I wish she was a survivor.

Some folks there are just a few months cancer-free. And one woman’s battle with cancer was 63 years ago.

Cancer survivors have endured painful surgery, blistering radiation and chemotherapy that rendered them weak and sickly.

The good news is, it worked. The treatment that sometimes is as bad as the disease did what it was supposed to do.

On May 15, this brave group of people will walk around the track at the Oakwood campus of the University of North Georgia to lead off the 2015 Relay for Life.

It’s not called the Relay for Cancer or the Relay for a Cure, but the Relay for Life. A cancer diagnosis once was a death sentence. Now it may be curable because of research sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

I saw dozens of people this week who are living proof research works. Sometimes their bodies bear the scars of surgery or treatments, but those cancer cells have gone, and they are now living life to its fullest.

Some were younger than 10 and others were older than 80. They are beautiful people who not only were infused with medicine, but with hope.

I’ve spent a lot of time on the road of cancer. I didn’t get to take a turn onto a better road. My route took me to the end, where I had to say goodbye to my dad, my mother and my only brother.

My mama was a beacon of hope. She believed orange juice, Vick’s salve and aspirin could cure most any sickness. She believed in her heart my daddy would make a comeback until the moment he took his dying breath.

By the time we found out she was sick, cancer was already working its way through her body. A little more than three months after she was diagnosed, we were standing at her graveside.

But because of the faith she instilled in me, I have hope for the future. I’m going to light a memorial luminary for her at next month’s relay. I hope they ask me to spell her name. B-e-double-t-y B-l-a-c-k-w-double-o-d. I can’t even write it without smiling.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

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