• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Here's Johnny - Wish you were here

There were hundreds of folks at Friday's Relay For Life at the Woodford County Park. I wish there'd been one more. I met Cindy Watts at the 2016 Relay. Her story was one of three I did my best to tell after meeting a few of the many cancer survivors there. A few weeks ago, I asked someone at The Sun about her. I knew her prognosis last May wasn't good, but was hoping the doctors were wrong and I'd get to speak with her and her parents again this year. Cindy passed away last September. A short version of her obituary from a Lawrenceburg funeral home read this way: "Along with her husband and parents, she is survived by twin boys, Brayden and Tyler Watts, and a 10-month-old son, Caden Watts, all of Lawrenceburg; one brother, Jay (Erin) Clifton, Versailles; maternal grandmother, Edith Tandy, of Versailles; maternal great-grandmother, Stella Wilson, Frankfort; sister-in-law, Layla Camden, Danville; two nieces; and one nephew." Of course, her friends and family members and a few readers of The Sun know much more about how she lived - and the selfless choice she made that almost certainly took months, and perhaps much longer, away from her. The headline for Cindy's segment was, "I was not losing my child." She was 34-years-old and pregnant in August of 2015 when she was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer that had already metastasized to her liver. Cancer treatment options are limited for pregnant women, and for Watts, this would mean no radiation, less intrusive scans and three chemotherapy drugs instead of five. She said that more than one doctor asked if she wanted to abort the 19-week-old male fetus she was carrying. Each time, she said no. "I told them if I had to give up the baby, that I wouldn't do it (the treatment). If I could go through the chemo and keep the baby, that was fine, but otherwise, I was not losing my child. I'd already had a miscarriage in March; I'd already lost one baby and I was not willing to do that," Watts said. In order to give life, she chose to put hers at higher risk. She began treatment, with the doctors' goal limited to keeping the cancer from spreading, while she and husband Shane had to decide what to tell their twin eight-year-old boys, Tyler and Brayden. The night I met her, Cindy sat under the park pavilion with her parents, Jim and Linda Clifton, and Caden, delivered early, 13 weeks after she learned she had cancer. She was undergoing radiation treatments for the cancer that had spread to her spine, but said most days are good. "I do have my breakdowns, but I know that I have four boys, including my husband, that I have to fight for, and that's what I will keep doing," Watts said. After the article ran, she wrote a lovely and undeserved thank-you note, and I thanked her and told her that I admired her courage and would keep her in my prayers. Too often in this business, you meet people on one of the worst days of their lives. Almost always, I'm impressed by their courtesy and bravery. I hope Cindy had lots of good days in the too-few she had left. Since meeting her, I've had the privilege of telling the story of cancer patient Becky Selby and her Wolfpack crew and the pleasure of tossing back a pint with them at Kroger, aka "Kroger World" in this column. (Come join us one Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. - you get to take the pint glass home.) I've also met, but not interviewed, a teacher who beat leukemia - after 128 chemotherapy treatments. Despite all she's been through, she may be as funny as your humble scribe. She'd fit right in with the Wolfpack. I think Cindy would have, too. I wasn't at Relay this year. My esteemed colleague, workhorse senior reporter Bob Vlach, was. So were hundreds of people who are battling cancer, or beat cancer, or care for someone who has or had cancer. Of course, many of them were wishing someone they loved could have been there, too. More than a century ago, Scottish poet, novelist and Christian minister George McDonald wrote these words: "Death alone from death can save. Love is death, and so is brave. Love can fill the deepest grave. Love loves on beneath the wave." The moment we begin to love someone, we start a process that will one day, one way or another, lead to loss. Among other things, what the Relay For Life is about is remembering that terrible bargain is worth every misty moment.

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