When Becky Dame went to college, she was looking forward to all the things a young adult would get to do. But the 18-year-old kept getting sick. When she went to the doctor, she found out she had something more than just a little cold.
Dame was diagnosed with leukemia.
The form she had was rare for someone her age. Usually, it hits people in their 50s and 60s. At the time, one of the only treatment was a bone marrow transplant. Her sister was a perfect match, and in January 1992, Dame received her first transplant.
It seemed like she was in the clear. Her cancer went into remission.
“I felt so blessed, and I wanted to give back,” Dame said.
She started school again to become a nurse. But during her last semester, she relapsed. She pushed through, finishing her degree. The day after she graduated, she got married to her husband, Clint.
She also beat her cancer. Again. Dame never imagined that that wouldn’t be the last time she’d have to battle it. For the past 18 years, she has relapsed every two to three years. Since 1996, Dame has been a transplant nurse at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, in Tampa. Her reoccurring cancer cycle makes her a nurse with a unique perspective she can offer to her patients.
“That’s why I do what I do,” Dame said. “I’m their hope for them.”
Dame’s last transplant was in 2010. She found a new bone marrow donor and hopes that the change will extinguish the cancer forever. Cancer free in 2013, she’s waiting to see if she’ll relapse again, but she lives each day feeling “blessed.”
Dame is just one of the many inspiring survivors invited to attend the annual Relay for Life’s Survivor Dinner March 25. This is the second year the dinner has been held on a day other than Relay.
“During Relay, we get so busy that we don’t get the chance to share those stories,” co-chair Charlene Wheeler said. “There’s so much hope in the survivors’ stories. We want to share with those newly diagnosed. It’s different, when it’s right out of their mouths.”
Last year, about 160 survivors and caregivers attended. This year, organizers expect about 200.
“Years ago, it used to be someone you knew, knew someone with cancer,” Wheeler said. “Now, everyone has been touched closer by cancer.”
Wheeler’s life has been touched by cancer. Her father had cancer, and her husband died from it. She is newly diagnosed.
SURVIVOR AND CAREGIVER DINNER
WHEN: 6 p.m. March 25
WHERE: Plant City’s First Baptist Church, 503 N. Palmer St.