Relay for Life of Hall County
When: 7 p.m. to midnight May 12
Where: University of North Georgia Gainesville campus, 3820 Mundy Mill Road, Oakwood
More info: email@example.com or 770-297-1176
Every morning when Dr. Ronald G. Beebe pours himself a cup of coffee, he thinks about his oldest daughter, Lauren.
She bought him a large mug with the words “I freaking love you” on it. It is his daily reminder of Lauren, who lost her battle to colon cancer in November at 30 years old.
Beebe doesn’t mind the physical reminder.
“Every morning I think of her when I make that coffee,” he said, noting he enjoys the trigger that brings his blond-hair, hazel-eyed child to the forefront of his mind. “I never feel as close to her as when I have something like that.”
A doctor specializing in allergy, asthma and immunology at his office off Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville, Beebe loves it even better when his patients ask about her.
“Patients are afraid to ask me, afraid it’s going to upset me,” he said. “I love the fact that I know they are thinking about her ... I know she is not forgotten, and that means the world to us.”
Being able to talk about Lauren has helped Beebe cope with losing her the Monday before Thanksgiving last year.
“I used to think ... if my daughter died, I might as well die, too,” he said, adding she was only 28 when diagnosed in July 2014. “I thought ‘Why would there be a reason to get up in the morning?’”
But after her death following two years of fighting stage 4 colon cancer, Beebe’s feelings changed.
“Now that she’s gone, I don’t feel that way at all,” he said. “I feel a greater need to live a better life. Lauren gave a lot more than she took. I need to live my life in a way that would honor her life.”
HIS NEW MISSION
To do so, Beebe is raising awareness about colon cancer. Last month, he attended the second annual Georgia Colorectal Roundtable in Macon. While the conference’s purpose was to get more people 50 and older screened, Beebe’s goal was different.
“My purpose was to talk about early detection for colon cancer in younger people, like Lauren’s age,” he said, citing a rising rate of the disease in younger people.
A study led by the American Cancer Society found new cases of colon cancer and rectal cancer are occurring at an increasing rate among young and middle-aged adults in the U.S., according to the ACS website (www.cancer.org). Once age is taken into account, those born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer compared to people born around 1950, when risk was lowest.
Based on that and watching his daughter fight a disease that infested her colon and later lungs, Beebe’s mission is to find a better way to help the younger generation be aware of colon cancer and its symptoms.
CHAMPION FOR RELAY
In fact, he will be part of a booth dedicated in memory of Lauren on May 12 at the Relay for Life of Hall County at the University of North Georgia Gainesville campus in Oakwood. During the community-based fundraising event for the American Cancer Society, Beebe will share information about colon cancer.
Rena Pendley, senior community manager at Relay for Life of Hall County, said a card with a checklist of symptoms about colon cancer will be handed out at the booth.
“If you check yes to three or more, then you need to have conversation with your physician,” she said.
Pendley explained the information about colon cancer symptoms is important because screening does not happen until people are 50 or older.
“Screening would not have worked for Lauren, because she was much younger than the average age for screening,” she said.
That reason is why Beebe is sharing this information to the public at Relay for Life.
“I think that’s what Lauren would want me to do to bring attention to early detection,” he said.
Lauren first introduced her father to Relay for Life. The Gainesville doctor said he had heard about the agency before but was unaware of its resources and mission to raise funds for cancer research.
“My daughter got excited about it,” he said. “She felt strongly to help raise money to help treat people.”
Having funds for research to discover new and better treatments and eradicate cancer is the mission Beebe has signed up for.
“Relay reinforced the need that we need to be aware and raise more money,” he said. “(Cancer) truly can become a chronic illness instead of a fatal illness. You can cure some cancers, but others you can turn into a chronic illness.”
However, the research is still not advanced enough to save some, including Beebe’s daughter.
“In the end, she got tired,” Beebe said. “And it was her time.”
The family called hospice to allow Lauren to spend her final hours at home with her family and two beloved Jack Russell terriers, named Atticus and Finch. Beebe said she died 12 hours later.
“The hospice nurse said to me ‘If you are supposed to be with your loved one when they die, you will be,’” he said. “I think she was right.”
Beebe said he was with his daughter when she took her final breath, which resembled a sigh.
“It felt like that was the way it was supposed to be,” Beebe said. “That was Lauren’s gift to me. It was that last breath.”
Now his gift to her is continuing her work through Relay for Life as well as remembering her life.
“She was amazingly optimistic,” he said. “She never, ever said ‘Why me Lord?’ She had a strong faith and maintained it to the end.”
While Beebe could not answer the question of “Why his daughter?”, he saw the impact she had on others through her journey, which was charted on the Facebook page, Lauren’s Road to Recovery.
“Young people would say, because of your daughter I went and got checked because I was having these abdominal symptoms,” he said. “They found the polyps that were going to turn into cancer.”
Therefore, Lauren helped save a life, and her father plans to continue.
“Relay is my way of trying to speed along the process, to raise more money, to get more research and to find better treatments that may save someone who had the same disease my daughter had,” he said.