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Survivor recalls battle with cancer

Photo by Johnny Jackson
Cindy George, a breast-cancer survivor, rested on this couch during the school day in 2004, when she was feeling fatigued by a 16-week series of chemotherapy treatments.

Photo by Johnny Jackson Cindy George, a breast-cancer survivor, rested on this couch during the school day in 2004, when she was feeling fatigued by a 16-week series of chemotherapy treatments.

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Cindy George still reads the journal she created six years ago. It is a reminder, to her, of the blessings she found in her battle with breast cancer.

"From day one, I started writing in my journal about lessons that God was teaching me and about the kindness of the human spirit," said George, an assistant principal at Union Grove High School in McDonough.

George, who also lends out the chronicle of her six-month battle with cancer to help inspire and motivate others diagnosed with cancer, is an honorary chairperson for the 2010 Relay for Life of Henry County.

The wife and mother of two was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (Stage III) on Feb. 13, 2004. That year, she had a bilateral mastectomy and lymph nodes removed from her right arm to stop the disease's progression.

"Even though it was a torturous experience, it taught me things that I don't think I ever would have been taught," she said.

George underwent 16 weeks of chemotherapy, which lasted from April through August that year. That August, she began a series of radiation treatments which lasted six weeks, until Oct. 1, 2004, the first day of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a day she remembers fondly.

"I'm one who never misses work," she said. "Although I didn't feel well, I didn't give up. I never missed a beat."

She went back to work at Union Grove that day -- as she had the entire spring before and the few weeks leading up to Oct. 1, 2004 -- and she was greeted by several of her peers and pupils, each wearing pink. Later that day, she said, she witnessed more than 1,700 people pack the school's gymnasium to form a human ribbon in her honor.

George has savored those memories throughout the years, and still keeps a basket of get-well cards she collected over the months she battled cancer. She said she looks back at them these days, though less frequently than before.

She also reads through the journal she kept during the six months she underwent treatment in 2004.

"I pull that journal out at least two to three times a year, and read it cover to cover," George said. "It's very personal. It's pretty gut-wrenching at times."

The journal marks points in time, she said, when she questioned why she had the disease, when she felt fatigued at work from her treatments, and when she lost her hair and ceremoniously replaced it with a wig.

"I can remember one day when I was not feeling well at all," she said. "A teacher came up to me and said, 'You inspire me.'"

George said she was a year removed from her last mammogram when she was diagnosed with an advanced stage of the disease.

"I'd never been so terrified in my life," she said. "When you're told you have cancer, it's almost like you have an out-of-body experience. But I knew God was going to see me through it."

At the time, she had already experienced, first hand, the effects cancer has on families. Her father died of colon cancer, and several of her aunts and uncles lost battles with cancer.

Her family, too, was affected by her diagnosis.

"It was a big shock, when we first found out that she had breast cancer," said George's husband, Jackie George. "But she wouldn't let it get her down. She was amazing. She's the backbone of the house.

"I knew it was my job to take care of her and get her through all of this," Jackie George continued. "For my girls, it was hard on them. They, at first, didn't know what to expect, but they supported her just like I did. There is still life after breast cancer."

"I would say that I'm a survivor, and I am cancer free," Cindy George added. "I'm one of the blessed ones without a doubt."

As a cancer patient, she hoped to survive in order to one day see her two daughters, Lydia and Ivey, grow up, attend college and get married.

"Five years ago, I laid in bed praying to God that I would see this day," said Cindy George, whose eldest daughter, Ivey, was married last July.

Cindy George plans to participate in Relay for Life of Henry County alongside survivors Pam Nelson and Carol Tipton, also honorary chairpersons in this year's Relay.

Both Nelson and Tipton are members of the Relay's survivor committee.

"I Relay to never forget the fight," said Cindy George. "I Relay in support of others ... I Relay, because I can."

Relay for Life of Henry County will begin on Friday with a Survivor Dinner, scheduled for 5:30 p.m., at Woodland High School in Stockbridge, for all registered survivors and one caregiver.

The Relay will officially kick off with a survivor lap at 7 p.m., on the Woodland athletic field, followed by the "parade of teams" at 8 p.m.

A luminary ceremony will be held at 9:30 p.m., in honor of those who have battled cancer. The event will end with closing ceremonies at 7 a.m., Saturday morning.

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On the net:

Relay for Life of Henry County: www.relayforlife.org/henryga