04/22/12 — Bringing funds, help for local cancer patients

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Bringing funds, help for local cancer patients

By Gary Popp
Published in News on April 22, 2012 1:50 AM

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Staff members of Immediate Care begin their five-mile walk Saturday at the Cures for the Colors event. All proceeds from the event will go to help cancer patients in eastern North Carolina. See more photos in the photo galleries.

Judy Coker woke up the last day of December with blurred vision.

Two weeks late,r she was diagnosed with cancer and told a tumor had formed on an optic nerve.

Although her vision has since declined, her spirit has not.

While she is in no shape to lace up a pair of sneakers and to pound the pavement, that didn't stop her from cheering on the more than 600 participants of the Cures for the Colors event Saturday that featured a full-length marathon and 100-mile run along Wayne Memorial Drive.

Both races were completed on a 5.26-mile loop.

Now in its second year, the Cures for the Colors event attracted nearly double the number of participants than last year, which brought in about $30,000.

The marathon was added this year and marks the first certified 26.2-mile race held in Goldsboro.

Runners with sweat-glistened faces ran past Mrs. Coker as she stood with her husband, Kenneth, who was diagnosed with lymphoma several days before Christmas last year.

Even though they were each diagnosed with cancer within a month's time, they say they are the lucky ones.

"We have great support from our family, friends and church family," Mrs. Coker said. "Everybody has been great."

The Cokers were two of the many people who received financial help in the last year from Southeastern Cancer Care, a nonprofit organization that sponsored the event.

Dr. Jim Atkins of Southern Medical Oncology Center founded the organization to provide help directly to those battling cancer -- something traditional assistance programs often overlook, he said.

"The biggest need of our patients are gasoline cards and food cards," he said. "What people need to survive is gas and food."

The Cokers have felt the pain at the pump. They are currently making the 180-mile round trip from their Grantham home to Duke University five days a week for Mrs. Coker's treatments.

The couple have been making the trip for the past five weeks.

"The cost of gas and the expense of going back and forth to Duke, yes, it adds up," Mrs. Coker said. "We appreciate everything that has been given to us."

Atkins said cancer patients are so grateful for the financial assistance, they sometimes break down in tears when the assistance is offered.

The doctor said meeting the basic needs of his patients is what motivated him to create the event.

"The problem with some of the other big organizations that raise funds is a lot of the money doesn't really stay in eastern North Carolina. It goes to Washington, and that is OK, we certainly need research, there is no question about that, but we also need to help people at home," he said.

Atkins said those who are dealing with the physiological effects of cancer and treatments can also be burdened with stress stemming from financial issues.

He said he has treated a female patient whose home was being foreclosed on and a man who had sold all his belongings and had only $11 to his name.

"We don't think about that in eastern North Carolina, but there are people who are struggling," Atkins said. "It is a tough time, and charity starts at home."