Taking a swing at cancer: Tournament raises money for researchPublished 12:13am Monday, June 3, 2013
NATCHEZ — For many years, it was a fun tennis tournament in which Natchez resident Nancy Laird got to participate.
Ever since her childhood, Laird has been playing tennis, and there was no question as to whether she would compete in the annual Natchez Community Cancer Tennis Tournament.
Then in 1993, Laird was diagnosed with breast cancer. All of a sudden, the tournament had a much deeper meaning to her.
“Ever since I was 18, I’ve been playing in this tournament,” Laird said as she waited for her match play to begin Saturday afternoon at the 34th annual tournament at Duncan Park.
But during her chemotherapy in 1993, Laird was forced to watch others play, unable to dish out a serve herself. The breast cancer returned in 1997, forcing her to undergo stem cell treatment in Texas and once again miss playing in the tournament.
“It was pretty tough,” Laird said. “I missed playing. It’s a game for like, and everyone should play.”
Now cancer-free, Laird said she appreciates the tournament all the more, since most of the funds raised go toward fighting cancer.
“It’s incredible,” Laird said. “It’s great you can do something here local that will help raise money (for cancer research).”
Laird wasn’t the only cancer survivor on-hand this past weekend for the tournament. Baton Rouge resident Suzanne Fiske, who has attended the tournament every year since 1996, survived a bout with breast cancer a decade ago and said she’s grateful that the tournament helps in the fight against the deadly disease.
“It’s always special to see people do things to raise money for cancer and cancer awareness,” she said. “We also do that through the Baton Rouge Women’s Tennis Association.”
Jim Meyer, a member of the same group from Baton Rouge to which Fiske belongs, said he makes a point to stop in Natchez every year for the tournament.
“We like the social aspect, and the people here run it well,” he said. “They’re very nice, and it’s a charity event we like to support.”
A visit to Natchez is always a welcome activity for the group, Meyer said, even if they don’t come out on top in their matches.
“We used to come up and play golf when we’d lose. We don’t do that anymore. Now we just drink beer,” Meyer joked.
The camaraderie the local tennis community gave her was a big help during her chemotherapy treatments, she said.
“They were a huge support,” Laird said. “I had tremendous family, friend and tennis support — (the fight) was a piece of cake.”