Team Jacob is a team consisting of dad Andrew, mom Amanda, sister Callie and her younger brother Jacob Worley, a neuroblastoma cancer survivor for the last 10 of his 14 years.
This team was one of many at East Tennessee State University and Washington County’s Relay For Life event at the mini-dome on Friday night, set to run through the night until 2 on Saturday morning, with the ultimate goal of dunking cancer in the garbage through support, financially and emotionally.
Jacob Worley, with his cancer in remission the last 10 years, has high hopes for himself. He and his dad want him to be able to dunk a basketball by the end of the year. Both think he can pull it off, especially if he grows about three more inches to reach his father’s six-foot-four stature. As confident as they are about possible athletic achievements, they shouldn’t be confused for being cocky.
Andrew Worley is quick to share just how humble and strong his son had been in the years of his life, going through the treatment he had to.
“He’s the only kind I know who sticks out his arm for needle pricks,” Andrew Worley told.
And Jacob Worley is no different, shrugging off claims that he’s quite a strong-minded person for what he has been through in his path to now be a successful freshman at University High. At the event’s beginning, he was joined on stage with six other cancer survivors and spoke highly of their battles.
“I’m not like the other survivors,” he said. “I’m not as tough as the others.”
Though the Relay For Life isn’t a competition to see who’s the toughest, the indoor track was filled with many tough people, either having survived cancer or supported family, friends and loved ones through their battles with cancer, with many from each group taking laps of the track to rounds of applause.
An announcement was made that every year, 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with cancer, with 570,000 dying of the disease. To the organizers of the event, that is unacceptable, and they aim to combat that with all the donations and hard work that pour in. Jessica Poff with ETSU’s Relay For Life said they’d reached a total of $38,000 raised for cancer research by 7 p.m. Friday, with that number going up.
Jacob Worley’s battle with cancer occurred years ago. Charley Harvell’s story is a bit more recent. Harvell is a speech pathology student at ETSU whose class exercise with a doctor in her program alerted her that something might be wrong with her body.
She said her instructor was feeling her neck, as speech pathologists often do, when she felt something odd in Harvell’s neck and recommended she check it out on the double.
“Your thyroid is enlarged,” the instructor told Harvell, who went on to find out that her white blood cell count was off, a nodule was found in her neck and a biopsy showed a malignancy.
Diagnosed as thyroid cancer in just the last several weeks, Harvell has been battling with the help of her boyfriend, Brett Schneiderman, who helped put together a crowdsourcing effort to help her with the costs of cancer treatment when she was initially going without insurance at the time.
Harvell said she’s typically a strong, active person who could run miles at a time in a grueling school schedule and not bat an eyelash, but recently with her ailment, she was unable to make it through a quarter of a day without feeling like she needed a nap.
“I never take anything like this to heart,” Harvell said, adding that she’s the kind of person to just press on.
Having just had the bandages removed from a throat surgery she had just 11 days ago, Harvell said she’s getting used to having a scar across her throat, but is happy to have insurance now and the help of such a supportive boyfriend.
Schneiderman’s “Cheering for Charley” Give Forward campaign pulled together about $2,800, which has been helpful and appreciated, Harvell said. Giving her new situation, he said she could always use more to help her with her treatment costs, which will include synthetic hormones in the near future.
Lining the track were different tables from different fraternities, sororities, groups, clubs and organizations on- and off-campus. Sigma Phi Epsilon’s James Boozer had an eye-catching table to draw attention to testicular cancer, with a game and information board.
Just down the track from Sigma Phi’s table was the Puppy Therapy booth, brought together by Haleigh May and the people at ETSU’s Wesley Foundation.
“Puppies make people happy,” May said.
Their sign listed some of the benefits of dogs for cancer treatment, which included decreasing anxiety, an increase in willingness to live, lowered stress levels, a decrease in pain medication and much more.
As excited as they were to bring puppies into the track area, they weren’t allowed to because of health concerns. But Jack, a puppy, waited outside, ready to help and be called upon when needed.
For more information about Relay For Life events, go to www.relayforlife.org.
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