Cancer free.


Those are the words every cancer patient waits to hear. Those are the words that Charity was given last week.


A few weeks ago, I learned that a student who I taught in middle school many years ago had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Charity was given the diagnosis on May 31 and subsequently underwent a double mastectomy and a regimen of chemotherapy.


She was willing to do everything in order to give herself the best chance of watching her three children grow to adulthood.


Last week after undergoing the tests that one must take after a battle with cancer, Charity was told that she is now cancer free. She, her husband, their children and all who know her were ecstatic about the news.


Charity and family, who for the past several months been living under the dark shadow of cancer, can now see a light-filled future. All those things that were put on the back burner as she fought for her life are now once again in the picture.


Of course, “cancer free” does not mean that there are no concerns for Charity. She will have to take medications and continue to work through the effects of her surgeries. Cancer could still raise its ugly head, but for now it is gone.


Charity did not fight the battle alone. Family and friends have been with her throughout. One of those close friends, Karen, is a teacher at New Ellenton Middle School. She told her class about Charity’s situation and used October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as a vehicle to talk about this terrible form of cancer.


Last week the sixth-graders at New Ellenton Middle gathered in the cafeteria and got to hear Charity’s story from her own lips. Charity described her illness, its treatment and the results to date. She answered questions and talked bluntly about chemo – losing her hair, loss of taste for most foods, weakness and the other side effects as the medicine does its work.


The sixth-graders listened patiently, and, when the presentation was complete, they presented Charity with a check that will go to the Aiken Cancer Center. Students could pay $1 to have a handprint and a message to Charity placed on a long scroll of paper. The check for $106 showed how many students at the school were impressed with Charity’s story.


Breast cancer does not always have as happy a resolution as in Charity’s case. Fortunately she discovered the disease early and went straightaway to her physician. She will have to be monitored throughout the remainder of her life to ensure that the cancer does not return. But she has every expectation at this point of living a long life and getting the opportunity to see her children and their children grow up.


Jeff Wallace is the retired editor of the Aiken Standard.