Two Fighters Leading Teams Racing to Find Cancer Cures

Friday, April 1, 2011

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Melanoma is a word that makes Chris Vaughn cringe. For Crystale Walker, the words breast cancer make her determined to fight it. The two are fighting against the diseases and leading Baptist teams in two statewide events to raise money for a cure.

In October 2006, Vaughn, a nuclear medicine technologist in Baptist's Radiology Department, was diagnosed with the melanoma. Now, he is leading the pack for this year's Run From the Sun® 5K on April 9, 2011 at 5:30 p.m. in downtown Jackson.

"I will never forget the day I was sitting in the doctor's office, and he told me I had melanoma. There was a sinking feeling I got when I heard those words," said Vaughn. "It's not the words you expect to hear as a healthy 28 year old. After multiple surgeries and several months of chemotherapy, I was sitting in the dermatologist's office, not knowing that in just a few days I would receive the news for the second time. Yes, that is right, melanoma for a second time."

Vaughn continued to explain how God blessed him with great physicians such as Dr. Phillip Ley, Dr. Tammy Young and Dr. Gary Bolton helping him survive. Then, there were his nuclear medicine and radiology coworkers assisting him. He added, "There were many days they were there helping me get through the day; making me feel like I was their top priority."

For these reasons, he is passionate about leading the Baptist Team during this year's 8th annual Leonard E. Warren Melanoma Foundation's Run From The Sun® 5K. He hopes that awareness events like this will one day help find a cure.

Crystale Walker, Baptist's business manager for Rehab Services, is also running from cancer. She is leading a team in much of the same spirit that drove Nancy Brinker. Brinker, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® founder, promised her sister, Susan, that she would do everything she could to make breast cancer a thing of the past.

In 1998, Walker's sister, Donna, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Walker explained, "Donna had surgery, went through chemo, and fought the cancer with everything she had. The love and support of not only our family but of her whole church and community stood by her."

Donna was 37 years old in 2000 when she passed away. It was two weeks later that Walker's other sister, Alice, went to the doctor for a checkup. They found a lump and diagnosed Alice with breast cancer. Walker added, "We could not believe what was happening. She too fought a long hard battle with the disease, but she also passed away in April of 2002."

Walker learned a lot from her sisters in seeing how they reacted to the challenges that they faced. And, what Walker would like for people to know about them and what they would like for is not so much how they died but how they lived.

"They were so full of life, full of faith, and full of hope. That is why I feel so strongly about the Race for the Cure. I started participating in the race in 2000 as a way to honor and remember my sisters and show my support for this cause," said Walker. "It has become a family tradition for my son, Trey, my sister, Cindy, and I to run this race in honor and memory of both of my sisters. I feel in some way it is my responsibility to keep hope alive and support the cause to find a cure."

So far, over 200 employees and their families have joined Baptist's team for this year's Race for the Cure®. Walker, Baptist's team captain, is inspired to recruit as many Baptist employees and community participants as she possibly can to participate on the April 16, 2011, race in downtown Jackson.

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