When she compares her experience with cancer with other’s she’s known to suffer with the disease, Mitzi Walker knows she was lucky. Diagnosed with cervical cancer at age 62, Walker said she was happy to hear the word “but” from her doctor after she was told she had cancer.
“You know when you’re a kid you don’t like that word,” she said. “Your mama says, ‘Yes, you can go out and play, but you’ve got to clean your room first. Yes, you can have that to eat, buy you’ve got to eat all the rest of the food on your plate.’ You don’t like that word.
“But I came to love that word, because that day my doctor said to me, ‘Yes, the test came back, you’ve got cancer, but there’s a treatment for that and so far the success rate is great,” Walker said. “That ‘but’ was in there to tell me there was hope. And it was because of research.”
Because of that research on her specific cancer, Walker also learned doctors knew specifically where and what to look for in the following years to keep track of any possible reoccurrence. The possibility of her cancer coming back was always in the back of her mind, she said.
A relative who suffered cancer decades before had her cancer return two more times after the first diagnosis. “So I knew this in the back of my mind when I first got my diagnosis,” she said. “This might not be the end of my trip, because every time she thought it was the end of her trip (the cancer came back). Now this was in the 1950s, so you can’t compare her trip to my trip in the 2000s, but still, the thought was there.”
The research conducted and supported by the American Cancer Society is one of the reason’s Walker continues to support Relay For Life, but also for the other aspects of ACS. “They are multi-faceted in what they do,” she said. “Yes, they do research, and in some cases they have supplies that they give to folks after treatment when they need them.”
Walker also pointed out the ACS’s Hope Lodge, which provides free and/or reduced cost lodging for patients undergoing cancer treatments. There is a Hope Lodge in Birmingham.
“One time I was there and there were two ladies who were there with their babies taking cancer treatments,” she said. “Now that tore me up, to have a little one not as big as my 15-month old great-granddaughter now, having cancer treatments. But that was a place those mommas could stay with their babies between the treatments. And that’s because of our money, our money that we raise in Cullman. It makes a difference. It really makes a difference.”