Georgia Power Company holds 'pink' essay contest

By Valerie Baldowski


When Jack Conoly was diagnosed wsith testicular cancer eleven years ago, a doctor told him he had a 5 percent chance of becoming a dad. He is now the beaming father of five.

Conoly said he drew strength in his cancer battle from a relative who is a breast cancer survivor.

"I have a family member, Janet Beebe, she's been a cancer survivor for 27 years now. She is a four-time cancer survivor ..." Conoly said. In addition to battling breast cancer, she also was touched by skin cancer, he continued.

Conoly, a consultant on the Georgia Power sales and service team, chronicled his achievements in the winning essay from cancer survivors in the second annual "Real Men Wear Pink" essay contest. More than a dozen Georgia Power employees discussed how breast cancer has affected them.

The contest was sponsored by the company for its employees. The competition was held Monday at Georgia Power's Customer Care Center in McDonough.

The competition, organized by employee, Janice Barnes, featured essays read by 13 employees. Each contestant was dressed in pink and read his essay, which focused on loved ones who have battled, or died from, breast cancer. The winner received a "Real Men Wear Pink" tote bag, and a $25 gift card.

Barnes said she was motivated to organize the contest because of her own personal experience with cancer. "I had an aunt who passed away from breast cancer," she said. "Unfortunately, we didn't catch it early on, so she passed away about four years ago."

Barnes stressed the value of the "Real Men Wear Pink" campaign in raising awareness of breast cancer, yearly. "It's very important, because it puts it out there. It keeps them [women] reminded to do their mammograms each year, whenever they're supposed to do it," she said.

Greg Cannon, co-owner of Cannon Cleveland Funeral Directors, and one of the judges for the contest, as well as a member of this year's "Real Men Wear Pink" team, said he was happy to see a company like Georgia Power promote breast cancer awareness among its staff. He said he has friends, and a first cousin, who have breast cancer.

Other essayists were: Shane Ammons, Clayton Brown, George Crews, Emerson Cunningham, Alberto Estrada, Luis Francisco, Todd McCawley, Keith Jackson, Gerald Sanders, Norman Williams, Bobby Wilson, and Adam Simmons.

One contestant, Cunningham, read a letter he wrote as a tribute to his wife, Darria, who is battling Stage 3B colon cancer. It is entitled, "Letter to Cancer."

"Dear Cancer," the letter read: "We are writing you this letter to let you know that we're still here, and we are not going anywhere. Ever since you moved in on July 25, 2007, you have treated us without dignity, and respect. We never invited you into our beautiful home, but here you were, sitting at my dinner table controlling the conversation. You even have the nerve to come into my most private place, my bedroom, and stir up a mess there, too ...

"I guess the thing that made me most upset with you was that you didn't have the courage to announce your coming, you didn't give us time to get used to the idea of living with you.

"My 4-year-old daughter, Blair, who is normally so talkative, was afraid of you and didn't know how to communicate with us, because you were standing there looking like the bogeyman. My 6-year-old son, Lyndon, who had just started getting over the loss of his grandfather, whom you took from him a couple of years before, was terrified that you had now come back for his precious mother."

Cunningham ended his letter by quoting from the book of Revelation in the Bible: "And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning, nor outcry, nor pain, be anymore. The former things have passed away."

Cunningham concluded: "Until then, cancer, we are sending the eviction papers to the sheriff's office to remove you from the premises. Keep your bags packed."