October 11, 2006 Edition

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These friends and Walnut Ridge High School graduates of 1972 gathered for the first Lawrence County Walk in 2004. They are (from left): Terri Kimbrough Loueallen of Trumann, Claudia Tribble Wheeless of Walnut Ridge, Debbie Grissom Billings of West Plains, Mo., and (not pictured) Rosemary Twombly Worsham of Walnut Ridge.

Friends support one another
through struggles with cancer

Amy Privett
Guest Writer

The year was 1972 and four young women graduated from high school with hopes and dreams like most graduates. These four women were friends and looked forward to their futures.

Each one had different goals and ambitions. Each one was full of possibilities, and each had no idea that cancer would impact that future. These four women have faced one of life's toughest trials and remain friends and supporters of each other. This is their story.

My mom, Claudia Wheeless, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. She underwent a double mastectomy and several rounds of chemotherapy. After many months of sickness and hardship, Mom fully recovered and attended her first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Little Rock in October 2004.

Mom and I, along with a group of friends, went to the race, not knowing what to expect. She attended the Survivor Breakfast along with 1,000 plus other survivors, only to hear her name being called out from somewhere, but by whom? Who knew her?

That voice was her Walnut Ridge classmate and friend from years ago, Terri Kimbrough Loueallen. Terri had been Chairperson for the Race for the Cure for several years. Terri was shocked and pleased to see her friend/classmate at the breakfast.

Mom walked with other survivors in the Survivor Parade that follows the Race. As Mom walked and waved her pink pom-pom, we stood on the sidelines and cheered for she had won the battle with breast cancer.

The Little Rock Race is so inspirational. Thousands of people come together for one cause. That is a true motivator. Mom was in awe and driven to do more in her own backyard. She went back to Walnut Ridge and with a local group of cancer survivors founded the Lawrence County Walk of Hope.

The first walk was called Relay for Life and was held at Stewart Park in 2004. It was a big success, and of course Mom's friend, Terri, was there to support her, as did her fellow classmates Debbie Grissom Billings and Rosemary Twombly Worsham.

All four ladies walked in honor of my mom and in memory of Rosemary's mother and brother, who had previously lost their battles with cancer. Each lady cherished their friendships and felt honored to be part of something so great.

The year 2005 brought yet another friend into the combat with cancer, when Terri was diagnosed with breast cancer. We again traveled to Little Rock and walked for the cause. That year, Terri, who was unable to walk, rode in a pink Ford convertible in the survivor parade as we cheered for her. We knew the struggle she had faced and were proud to see her riding toward victory.

The 2005 Walk of Hope rolled around, and Terri couldn't attend. She was too weak from the chemotherapy. Mom, Debbie and Rosemary again banded together and walked in support of Terri.

This Saturday's Walk of Hope will bring the friends together once again for a cause. This year, they will walk in honor of Debbie's dad who is battling cancer and for Mom, who is again fighting against the deadly disease.

These four women will tell you that the strength and support that their friendship has brought them is something powerful. Their support of each other, along with prayer and God's guidance, has brought them through life's trials. They will tell you that friendship is one of God's dearest gifts.

My mom gave me the following advice, which this particular time I listened to. She said, "We should always be there for our friends. Sometimes you'll be the friend who listens and sometimes you'll be the friend who cries, but always be the friend who cares."

This Saturday is our third annual Lawrence County Walk of Hope. Do you have a friend who needs support? Honor a friend, whether they are affected by cancer or just battling life's ups and downs WALK.

Bring your lawn chair and enjoy the festivities. Join us as we raise money for Lawrence County cancer patients. Be a kind, caring friend and support this great cause. I hope to see you at Hoxie High School's Crider Field around 3 p.m.

Thanks for all the support you have given in the past. Your prayers and thoughts saved my mom the first time, and I know it will save her again.

Let's get together with these ladies and give them the future that they dreamed of on that graduation day years ago.

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