Survivors found courage to fight
By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 19, 2006 1:48 PM
More than 600 cancer survivors and family members gathered Thursday at First Pentecostal Holiness Church for the annual Cancer Survivors Banquet on the eve of the Relay for Life.
Despite the seriousness of the event and the rough weather outside, the spirits of the people inside were high. There was standing room only in the main banquet hall and two side rooms were filled to overflowing.
Andrea Ravella, left, looks on as her husband, James, tells the story of Mrs. Ravella's struggle with breast cancer from his perspective during the annual Relay for Life cancer survivors banquet Thursday night at First Pentecostal Holiness Church.
Master of ceremonies Jimmie Ford told those attending that "being cancer survivors, you get a second chance in life -- make the best of it. It's great to be alive."
Featured speakers for the evening were Lt. Col. James and Andrea Ravella. Mrs. Ravella is a breast cancer survivor. They spoke about how the disease had affected them.
"For three years, I watched it physically take her body, but she didn't allow the cancer to take over her life spiritually and mentally," Ravella said.
Mrs. Ravella said she had a dream one night after moving to Goldsboro. She was in a farm field filled with rows of corn. There was one light above her lighting her way.
"I knew I had to go down that row of corn. I could not turn right or left," she said. "That was the path I must take."
Ravella said as the spouse of a someone fighting cancer, the disease challenges him as well. He kept a journal during the struggle -- therapy for him, he said.
He also began sharing his story with friends around the world and that, too, helped him realize that the disease should not be allowed to take over the lives of the people it affects. He read excerpts from the diary.
"I watched Andrea and have been amazed at her strength. Andrea has had to go where only she could go," he read.
Diary entries included descriptions of watching his wife fight the disease that was trying to destroy her and the difficulty in watching someone he loved go through the painful treatments.
"Andrea doesn't want to stop or give in, but I see her cry over the pain and know how much she hurts."
Another entry described how he would wait with her at the doctor's office while she underwent the treatments. As she sat in a Lazy Boy chair to receive the chemotherapy, he would sit beside her. One day, he sat in the Lazy Boy himself for a time.
"I felt close to the struggle she was going through, the fight she's fighting and the fear of that chair," he wrote.
He said he then began to understand that his wife was bringing herself close to death so she could have a chance at life.
During the time she was undergoing treatments, he watched as she tried to hold onto some normalcy of life -- continuing to put on makeup, cooking meals for her family.
"That Lazy Boy is her only hope, but it's sucking the life right out of her," Ravella wrote. "Her greatest hope was to get out of that Lazy Boy."
Mrs. Ravella said that despite her trials, the disease actually gave her two blessings -- friends and faith.
"Although cancer came to take from us our life as we knew it, we have found a rebirth of faith," she said. "We have grown so much over the past three years that I can say I'm glad for this experience."
During the banquet, Chicks For Jesus, a musical group from Saulston United Methodist Church performed. Magician Tim Dumas stumped the cancer survivors and their guests with feats of magic, mixed with a comedy routine. He got Dr. James Atkins, a well-known Wayne physician and one of the leading cancer experts in the nation, to come on stage, where he cut his tie and put it back together again.
All of the survivors in attendance received a commemorative T-shirt, which they will wear during the cancer survivor's lap at the start of the Relay for Life that begins today at 6 p.m. at Wayne Community College.
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