Pair beating cancer together

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

VIDALIA &045; Walking in the Miss-Lou Relay for Life is nothing new for Gordon and Nell Arnold.

After all, they got involved with the event several years ago through their daughter, relay volunteer Lisa Cater. &uot;And besides, it’s for a good cause,&uot; Gordon Arnold said.

But this year, for the first time, they will be walking with hundreds of other survivors after surviving their own bouts of cancer starting last August.

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Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society’s biggest fundraiser, honors cancer survivors in several ways. One is the survivors’ reception with a free barbecue dinner, T-shirts and medallions. That reception is set for 6 p.m. today on the riverfront. The first lap of the relay, which starts at 7 p.m., will be devoted to survivors; the second, to them, supporters and caregivers.

Survivors’ names will be read during a luminary service at 9 p.m. Friday. Luminaries and places on a wall of honor can be bought in their honor, as well as in memory of those who had cancer and didn’t make it.

Relay &uot;is a celebration of them,&uot; said event Co-Chairwoman Kathy Prospere. Also it’s a chance, because participants stay up all night, &uot;to experience a little bit of what they go through &045; the treatments, staying up all night.&uot;

Actually, the Arnolds consider themselves lucky to have escaped the worst of the disease &045; and to have caught it early.

&uot;I tell everyone I know to have a PSA (prostate exam),&uot; Gordon said.

&uot;And I tell every woman I know to have a mammogram,&uot; Nell said.

Gordon traveled last summer to help his son chaperone a team to baseball playoffs in Baton Rouge when he fell ill and went to the doctor for the first time in years. While he was there, the retiree had his first prostate exam. When it came back positive for cancer, he was floored.

And when, as they were leaving for his scheduled surgery, they received the call that a lump in Nell’s breast was malignant, they were even more floored.

After all, while several women in Nell’s family have had breast lumps removed, they have all been benign. &uot;I didn’t have any history of cancer in my family,&uot; Nell said. &uot;Neither does he.&uot;

It was that same family &045; as well as friends and her former co-workers at the Vidalia Library &045; that Nell credits with helping the couple make it through their recent battle with cancer.

And they have each other. With their being diagnosed within three weeks of each other, &uot;you know what the other person’s going through,&uot; Nell said.

But a positive attitude doesn’t hurt. In fact, they actually laughed several times about their roller coaster ride with the disease. &uot;I had my surgery and thought I was through, and I told her so,&uot; Gordon said.

After her surgery, Nell explained, she still had to have two lymph nodes removed and undergo radiation treatments in the space of two months.

&uot;Then I found out I had to take radiation five days a week until I had made 37 trips &045; I’ve got 21 to go,&uot; Gordon said, with another laugh. Radiation is not nearly as tough on the body as chemotherapy, Gordon said. &uot;In fact, I can do my treatments in Natchez and then still play later in the morning,&uot; said Gordon, who plays his bass at functions around the Miss-Lou.

The couple also jokes about their being diagnosed almost all the same time. &uot;The last time we’d even had (a major procedure) was when we were both 12, when we had our appendix out,&uot; Gordon said.

&uot;I guess you could say we do everything together,&uot; Nell said.

That includes getting and staying cancer-free, Gordon said.

&uot;I have no doubt we’ll beat this thing Š together,&uot; he said.