Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2004

Cancer survivor to walk first lap in Relay

April 22, 2004

Junior Hargett will be walking at Relay for Life next week for the first time ever. He'll be participating not just for himself, but for other people as well.

"I just thought I would after what I've been through," Hargett said. "I just want to get in it and walk one time. I want to help somebody else."

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Hargett will be participating in the survivor's lap at Baldwin's Relay for Life, which begins at 7 p.m. April 30 at Liston Stadium. Twenty-five teams of nearly 400 people will be walking in an effort to raise $25,000 for cancer research, education and programs.

Though Hargett has won two major battles with skin cancer, he will be remembering those not as fortunate during his survivor lap around the track.

"I'll be thinking about all the people not able to (walk the survivor lap)," he said.

Hargett, a 65-year-old Vinland farmer, feels fortunate for the opportunity to be able to walk at this year's Relay for Life. He first developed skin cancer in 1983, a small spot he said was removed from his lip.

"It's from being out in the sun, from farming," he said.

In late summer of 1991, just a few months after his mother died of cancer, Hargett developed skin cancer again, this time under his chin and on his neck, a section which stretched from ear to ear. In August of that year, in an effort to remove the cancer, he underwent a neck dissection, had 16 teeth removed and had 30 radiation treatments.

His months of treatment worked, and Hargett was cancer free for 13 years. But last year, his skin cancer redeveloped on the lower part of his face.

"It kind of shook me up when I found out I had it again," he said.

In April 2003, doctors performed a 17-hour surgery on Hargett, which involved removing his jawbone, most of his bottom lip and reconstructing his lower face with tissue from other parts of his body.

Following his surgery, Hargett had a tracheotomy for two weeks and was placed on a feeding tube for approximately four weeks. It was two months before he could return to work, but Hargett said it could have been worse.

"I feel lucky I got over it as quick as I did," he said.

A year later, the effects of his cancer surgery are noticeable. His chin and neck have a swollen look about them, and because the surgery affected his voice box, he can't talk above a gravely whisper. But he is once again cancer free -- a survivor.

"I'm still alive," he said.

Hilda Hargett called her husband a fighter.

"He just won't give up," she said. "That's one of the reasons he's still going like he is.

"I've seen him through a lot of things," he said. "There's nothing that will keep him down. I say he's got nine lives."

Hargett said he made it through his bouts with cancer with the help of friends and family.

"I've had lots of people that kept me going," he said.

Hilda Hargett said their four children, Judy Coble, Terry Hargett, Jim Hargett and Mark Hargett, and their four grandchildren helped with his recovery.

"Between the children and grandchildren, they kept him busy," Hilda Hargett said. "They just keep after him."

But they weren't the only ones who saw him through his cancer treatments. He said there was one particular person who helped him survive.

"Her," he said, nodding to his wife, Hilda.

Though his cancer is gone now, Hargett said he believes it is possible he could get it again.

"But I'm not going to worry about it," he said.

Instead, Hargett said he will walk in the survivor's lap remembering others who aren't there to walk with him.

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