FLORENCE — Cameron Thorn won’t forget Feb. 16 of last year.
A day earlier he wasn’t feeling well, suffering a severe back ache. With his symptoms worsening, he went to a doctor and tests were ordered.
Within days, the 18-year-old Wilson High School senior got the news that tests revealed an oddly swollen lymph node in the back of his stomach.
Complete diagnosis showed Thorn had Hodgkins and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a rarity by any measure but especially uncommon for an otherwise healthy teen.
He spent the next several months at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis undergoing treatments to rid his body of the cancer. His doctors, who had never treated a patient with both forms of lymphoma, began an aggressive chemotherapy treatment.
By August, Thorn was cancer-free and at home preparing to start his senior year of high school.
On Thursday, he spoke at the kickoff event for the local American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life campaign. He is one of four honorees for this year’s event. The others are Annie Greenhill, a 92-year-old breast cancer survivor; Michele Broadfoot, a breast cancer survivor whose young daughter, Maggie Pace, was a previous honoree; and 12-year old Nolan Binion, a Mars Hill student who has a rare blood disorder and recently underwent a bone marrow transplant.
The fundraising relay event will be 7 p.m. May 17 at the University of North Alabama football practice field. So far, more than 30 teams have signed up to raise money and participate in the all-night walking event. The theme for this year’s event is, “Give Cancer the Boot” and its western theme was on display Thursday.
Many participants walk in memory of a friend or loved one who has battled cancer.
Thorn told the audience they “have no idea what it means to e a chemo patient to know there are people out there raising money and working to hopefully see they get their lives back.”
Thorn took five rounds of chemotherapy and describes it as, “absolutely indescribable.”
In reflecting on his time in the hospital, Thorn paused briefly to collect his thoughts before continuing.
“I can tell you, it was rough,” he said. “Don’t give up on what you’re doing because every penny you raise goes to a person, like me, fighting for his life back. I thank you that you helped me get mine back. Just please, don’t ever give up; keep giving other people their lives back.”
Megan Lovelace, the community representative of the local American Cancer Society, said 489 local residents received assistance last year through the organization’s 1,797 programs and services.
“We’re very fortunate to have a local office here,” Lovelace said. “It means a lot to many deserving people.”
The organization’s survivor dinner is scheduled for April 25 at Listerhill Credit Union.
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.