Candles light the way for Relay for Life | NevadaAppeal.com
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Candles light the way for Relay for Life

Jeff Ackerman

Shannon Bell called Friday looking for some help. The Carson City resident and her children are trying to raise money for a little 4-year-old girl named Ashley Rose Kisman, who has been fighting Leukemia in an Oakland, Calif. hospital since February.

There’s a fund-raiser slated for Ashley Aug. 25 at Champion Speedway. Gates open at 5 p.m. and raffle ticket sales will go to help with Ashley’s medical costs.

When Shannon called looking for publicity she told me Ashley lives in Sparks, but was born in Carson City. We get lots and lots of requests for coverage of a variety of worthy causes and sometimes it comes down to residency when choosing who gets in the paper and who doesn’t.

And so I dropped the flier Shannon left me and went about my business, which just so happened to take me to the Carson High track Friday night for my second-annual sleep-over for the Relay for Life event sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

Believe it or not, there is something spiritual about running laps at a high school track at 3 a.m. Especially when the track is encircled with lighted candles representing cancer victims.

The deal on the relay is that someone from your team must be on the track from 5 p.m. until 8 the next morning. Carson City School Superintendent Mary Pierczynski, herself a cancer survivor, was captain of our team.

I’ve been running for as long as I can remember. Not unlike Forrest Gump, I took off one day and never stopped. Running clears the head and you tend to think about anything to keep your mind from the stupidity involved in pounding your knees on the pavement in 100-degree weather.

As I ran past all those candles I thought about my sister Chris, who died from cancer a few years ago. It ravaged her body, waiting to claim her until she had been reduced to bones inside a cottage overlooking the ocean. Most of the time cancer allows you to choose where you want to die and Chris wanted to see the ocean one more time.

I thought about my friend Sam Waldman, who died a few months ago up in Incline Village. Sam owned a ranch out in the Carson Valley where disabled children still come to ride horses for the first time in their lives. Sam was a giving man, but the cancer didn’t check his resume before claiming him.

And then I thought about little Ashley Kisman and the flier on my desk with a photo of a smiling little girl with blonde hair and bright eyes. A second photo at the bottom of that flier showed her sleeping in a hospital bed, her hair and smile gone. Her parents, who probably didn’t know much about white cells when they watched Ashley walk for the first time, now hope that the white cells are winning the war within their little girl’s withering body.

Last month Ashley received a bone marrow transplant and has since been experiencing what they call Mucositis, severe mouth and throat soars. Then there are the high fevers, vomiting, painful rashes and the general symptoms of a body under full assault.

Not the kind of things that ought to be happening to a 4-year-old girl who looks like an angel.

On the local battle front we are fortunate to have lots of folks fighting for a cure, or at least a way to ease the pain. Carson-Tahoe Hospital will soon launch a capital campaign for a new cancer center. Perhaps one day victims and family won’t need to travel great distances for treatment and care.

Then there is the Carson Advocates for Cancer Care, a small band of warriors who strike straight to the immediate needs of victims and family. Joe DiLonardo is president of that group and volunteers are encouraged to call him at 883-7477.

A group called Family to Family provides awareness, education and support for the growing number of prostate cancer victims. There’s a fund raiser for that organization slated Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Bully’s Bar in Carson City. They can be reached at 883-2527.

In the end, residency really doesn’t matter when it comes to cancer. Ashley Rose Kisman is in a fight for her 4-year-old life and there’s a woman named Shannon who is trying to help. If you can help, please call Shannon at 882-1986, or send a donation to the Angel Kiss Foundation at 150 Ridge Street, Suite 3, Reno, NV.