Purple bows of hope: Carol Mitchell, Phyllis and Jeff Turner and Shiloh Farm's children are raising funds for Relay for Life
By Anessa Myers
Published in News on March 29, 2009 2:00 AM
This year, Carol Mitchell wanted to do something extra special for a friend and neighbor who has battled cancer for the past six years.
Her friend was in her mid-40s when she got breast cancer.
She beat it, only to later have it metastasize in her spine.
Eventually it got so bad she couldn't walk.
But after getting a tumor removed from the top of her spine, she is now in rehabilitation and continues to fight.
That's why Carol got together with Phyllis and Jeff Turner, owners of Shiloh Farm Ministries, and came up with an idea.
As you round the bend in Community Drive in Rosewood, it looks like someone's Easter decorations at first glance.
The purple bows on the white fence posts of Shiloh Farm are there to show hope and life.
But they aren't there for the holiday.
They are symbols of hope for those still fighting cancer, symbols of remembrance for those lost to the disease and symbols of support for those who have beat it.
"Every bow represents somebody," Phyllis said. "It shows people that there are people that love each other in the community."
For her, it shows families that are dealing with the disease that they aren't alone.
Phyllis wanted the entire community to know that there are people around them that have suffered from cancer, that there are people whose families have been adversely affected and that they have friends all around them who support them through their tough ventures in life.
"You stand up with people," she said.
And there aren't just one or two bows tied to a few fence posts.
In the three weeks that Carol and Phyllis have been selling them -- to help raise money for the Relay for Life of Wayne County -- they have sold around 40 bows.
But Carol's friend's bow is even more special than the others.
"Hers is a pink bow inside of a purple bow," Carol said. "The pink bow is for breast cancer."
Carol herself hasn't gone without cancer.
After retiring as a nurse, she started working with Relay for Life of Wayne County in 2002.
She says that at that point in her life, she never would have guessed that her family would later be hit by the disease she was helping to find a cure for.
But a few months later, her husband., C.B., found out he had prostate cancer.
And four years later, after she helped to care for her husband, he had to care for her.
Her story started out with her visiting the doctor because she had a "fullness and bloating feeling" in her abdomen.
"I had had a colonoscopy, so I wasn't scared about that (colon cancer)," she said.
So, not thinking much of it at that point, she went on a cruise.
"They had all this wonderful food, but I couldn't eat it," she said. "I would take small bites and felt like I was going to pop."
When she got back home, she tried not eating anything at all to see if it was a digestive problem.
"I still felt full," she said.
Then, she thought she had gall bladder or heart problems.
But after she went through a few tests, her doctor told her that it wasn't her gall bladder and that she was fine.
But she knew she wasn't.
She thought to herself, "No, I'm not all right. Something's going on."
"Then this one night, I got so sick. I thought, 'I've got to see the doctor today.' That day, I went to the hospital," she said.
"They took 3 quarts of fluid out of my abdomen to test."
One week later, she was in Chapel Hill, having surgery to take out the cancer in her ovaries.
Carol is now in remission, and her husband is cured.
She said that in her nursing years, she saw many patients who were battling the disease.
"They beg me for something for the pain," she said. "But I couldn't give them anything back then. We didn't have the morphine pump that we do now."
In those days, the "c" word was one that had an inevitable ending.
"Cancer was a death sentence back then," she said.
She said she is so thankful for the technology that the Relay has helped to raise funds to provide.
"I never felt sorry for myself," she said. "I never asked God, 'Why me?' because I know there are worse things that have happened to people.
"You're thankful for every day."
She and her husband "can still do," she said.
And she knows there are some out there that can't.
That's who she is concerned about.
"We can still ride horses and garden and boat and all that," she said.
Cancer didn't take their lives.
The Community Drive area is a close community.
"We all know each other," Carol said.
But neither her nor Phyllis and Jeff ever realized that cancer was so prevalent.
"I never realized how many of our neighbors were affected until we started doing this," Phyllis said.
Even the children in Shiloh Farm Ministries after school program and 4-H Club have been affected.
Out of the more than 15 kids in the two groups, three-fourths of them have had at least one family member who has battled the disease.
A few have had their aunts, uncles, grandmothers or grandfathers taken away.
Some are seeing their relatives continue to battle every day.
And others have family members that have beat it.
When they come to Shiloh Farm and see all of the purple bows, they know they are not alone.
"It's nice to have your family and friends support you like that," 12-year-old Brooke Woodard said. "It means a lot to me."
Her grandmother died of lung and breast cancer when she was 4.
"It makes me feel happy to look at all the bows," 12-year-old Taylor Farrell said.
His grandfather and great uncle are currently fighting the disease. One has lost his voice, and the other is in a coma.
He isn't the only one who has had more than one family member affected.
Nine-year-old Christina Worrell's uncle has bladder cancer, and her 13-year-old cousin just found out he has Hodgkins lymphoma.
Cody Eatmon, 8, said that his grandpa and his uncle fought the disease.
And Harleigh Stafford, 12, had a grandfather who died and an aunt who has survived breast cancer.
Even those in the group who don't have family members who have had cancer find the bows as a way to support their friends.
"I think it's great," 13-year-old Timothy Williams said. "It makes other people feel better, and it makes you feel better because you are helping people."
"I think the bows are very cool because people talk about cancer survivors," 7-year-old Victoria Hines said.
Like 8-year-old Noah Ball's grandfather.
He has been a cancer survivor for 10 years, he said.
"He just bought a house for us to go fishing in," he said of his grandpa.
Every time that Phyllis or Jeff walk around their farm, they say a prayer for each person those bows represent.
"I say, 'God, please touch so-and-so today,'" she said.
They tell the children in their programs to do the same.
And Carol does it when she comes to the farm.
The bows have even brought a few unfamiliar faces to the farm.
"There was a family that pulled up the other day," Phyllis said. "We didn't know who they were. But somebody had bought a bow for them. They wanted to come see it.
"We just let them have their moment."
The bows cost $10 a piece, and all of the proceeds go toward Relay for Life of Wayne County.
If you want to purchase a purple bow to hang at Shiloh Farm Ministries, please contact Phyllis at 222-9549.
And with each bow purchase, Phyllis also will send out a card to the person or their family, telling them that there is a bow hanging for them at the farm.
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