‘Honored to represent the survivors’

Ellsworth woman to serve as honorary chair of Relay for Life

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Billie Shelton
Linda Graham on the porch of her home in Ellsworth, where she and husband Dale have lived for 45 years. She will serve as the honorary chair of the Hamilton County Relay for Life on Wednesday, June 19, in Stanhope.

ELLSWORTH — Linda Graham turned down several previous invitations to serve as honorary chair for Hamilton County Relay for Life before agreeing to do it at this year’s relay, set for Wednesday, June 19, in Stanhope.

“After what I went through this winter, I guess I can do this,” she said of why she finally agreed to be on a golf cart at the front of the line of cancer survivors who will walk in the survivor’s lap, a highlight of the annual event.

“I am honored to be asked to represent the survivors. There are probably many more worthy of this honor.”

What she’s referring to is the discovery that she had cancer. Again. The first time was twenty-five years ago, when Graham’s breast cancer was diagnosed and successfully treated with radiation and chemotherapy.

When malignant tumors were found in her lungs in 2018 and she was diagnosed with stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer, chemotherapy treatment were started in September. Radiation followed. With that completed, life was again looking promising to Graham and husband Dale.

Then, during a mammogram shortly after completing treatments for lung cancer, cancer showed up again in one breast, and it was discovered that Graham is a carrier for the BRCA 2 gene. Graham, 71, underwent a double mastectomy in April.

These days, back in the Ellsworth home she shares with Dale, her husband of 52 years, Graham is upbeat, even with an uncertain prognosis. Now on regular after-care infusions for her immune system, she reports that the only side effects from her treatments and surgery are feeling extra tired some days.

“So then I just head for my bed and take a nap,” she chuckled.

Graham, retired from the U.S. Postal Service, is on the planning committee for this year’s Relay for Life, something she says she enjoys and has done several times earlier. She has been on a Relay team, too, and has walked laps to earn pledge dollars. “It’s worthwhile, but we need more participants,” she noted about Relay for Life. “It would be nice to have more teams to take an interest in this. And we’d like to have more luminaries given for the survivors’ lap, too.”

According to Graham, about $25,000 is raised annually in the local Relay for Life, and much of that goes for research. In 2018 the total was about $24,000. “I do feel that if people donate, that does help, because they are finding cures for cancer,” she said, adding that treatment methods have changed since her first breast cancer diagnosis in 1994.

Graham’s positive attitude shows a few cracks as she tears up just a little while considering her journey through three bouts of cancer.

“I want to give God all the glory and thank all the people who shared encouraging words and prayers,” she said.

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