Relay For Life – Survivor Leola Burks

Image: Leola Burks never let  cancer define who she was. When diagnosed she decided to fight harder than she had ever fought in her life.

Leola Burks never let cancer define who she was. When diagnosed she decided to fight harder than she had ever fought in her life. (Karen Mathiowetz)

When Leola Burks was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer in 2006, she had a big decision to make. She could either give up and let it defeat her or fight harder than she had ever fought in her life to defeat it. She chose to do whatever it took to survive. She also decided it would not change her outlook on life no matter what.

“I have a strong faith in God which helped me keep a positive attitude,” Burks said. “I also have a strong circle of family and friends for spiritual and emotional support. I never let the cancer diagnosis bother me – I really was okay with it.”

When the doctors performed surgery, they were able to remove the malignancy on the lower lobe of her lung, but the cancer had spread to the upper lobe and beyond so they could not remove it. To destroy the cancer, she received chemotherapy and radiation.

“Chemo can make a person very sick. I lost my hair and got a little weak after the treatments and had bone pain. I continued to work during this time.”

Leola has worked for Dart here in Waxahachie for 30 years. She loves her Dart family and appreciates their support and love. She said they were wonderful during her treatment. They stepped up immediately with prayer, phone calls, visits and meals.

“I would have chemo every three weeks on Friday. I would be weak for a few days. Dart worked with me if I needed to take a couple of days off the week after the treatments. I never worried that I would lose my job. That meant so much to me. They really cared and wanted me to survive and be okay.”

She said she has always trusted in God and learned to trust in her doctors and technology. She knew she had to take it one day at a time and continue to trust her faith, family and friends. She is living proof that cancer is not a death sentence. She is thankful to be able to spend time with her 3 children, 11 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.

This will be Leola’s 10th year to participate in Relay For Life. She has raised at least $1,000 per year as a member of the Dart team. Dart is one of the top fundraising teams every year.

“Watching the Survivor Lap at Relay every year is proof that the American Cancer Society has made a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “I am looking forward to walking that lap again this year with other survivors.”

The first luminary she did was for her father who was diagnosed with cancer. The luminary ceremony is very beautiful and heart-wrenching at the same time. She loves to walk around the track the night of Relay and see all the luminaries. When she looks at them and the money raised, she sees the hope in a cure.

The Relay For Life of Central Ellis County will be held on May 30, 2015 from 6:00 p.m. to midnight at the Waxahachie Sports Complex. For more information contact Donna Daniell (469) 337-0438 or Jessica Gentry (214) 949-9918.