After battling cancer last year, a beloved Area 6 bus driver has been chosen as this year’s Relay for Life honorary survivor.
The first time Kim Cannon heard the word cancer was on March 20, 2015.
It was a Friday. Cannon and her husband, Rick Moore, were at the doctor’s office. Moore had discovered what he thought was a swollen gland on his neck, but the antibiotics he had been prescribed had done nothing to reduce the swelling.
In fact, the lump was getting bigger.
But it wasn’t a swollen gland, as doctors later told the couple. It was squamous cell carcinoma — cancer. And it was stage three.
“I was floored,” Moore said. “We weren’t expecting cancer.”
One year later, Cannon can still recite all the milestones of her husband’s treatment process.
March 30: Moore went in for his needle biopsy. He faced complications and bled out, leading to a four-day hospital stay. If the cancer was in his blood, it could spread to his entire neck.
April 7: Moore recovered from the bleed out. The mass lump was removed from his neck.
April 8: Plant City’s Relay for Life 2015. Though he had been released from surgery just hours before, Moore insisted on attending the overnight event. Moore and Cannon’s friend of over 20 years, Linda Herman, was that year’s Relay for Life leader.
This year, Moore will attend the Relay for Life event again.
But he’s not going as a cancer patient. He’s going as this year’s honorary survivor.
When he was diagnosed, Moore was working as a bus driver for Area 6 schools. Because Cannon and Herman both work in the school system, Moore frequently volunteered at school events, especially at Knights Griffin Elementary, where Herman is a teacher. His willingness to help whenever needed and his close relationship with the students who rode his bus made him beloved in the Hillsborough County school system.
His dedication, Herman said, was one of the main reasons that he was selected as this year’s honorary survivor.
“The committee gets together and discusses who would be a good representative,” Herman said. “We thought he would be a great fit.”
Moore is back on his bus route now, but he had to stop working temporarily when he went through radiation treatments and chemotherapy last year.
“I don’t like missing work,” Moore said. “That was really hard on me.”
Moore’s absence was noticed, both on his bus route and at Knights Griffin Elementary. As he began treatment, teachers and fellow bus drivers began donating their sick time hours to Moore, so that he would continue to be paid while he was out of work.
By the time he finished treatment, Moore had over 200 hours of sick time given to him. And he needed it — Moore went through chemotherapy once a week and had radiation five days a week.
His son, Tyler, drove him to the Center for Cancer Care and Research at Watson Clinic for his treatments.While he received radiation, Moore would lie down with a plastic, porous mask over his face. He wasn’t allowed to move his head.
“You can survive this disease and have a positive attitude all the way through.”
— Rick Moore, 2016 Relay for Life Honorary Survivor
“Radiation is so precise,” Cannon said. “It only takes a few minutes, but it takes longer to get in the exact position.”
Receiving radiation wasn’t tough for Moore. He jokes that he can fall asleep instantly.
Still, he faced the side effects of the treatment. After some of his hair started falling out, he shaved his head. He had nausea, bouts of depression and loss of appetite. For a long time, the only foods he could stand to eat were baked chicken, eggs and fish.
It wasn’t just eating that made him sick. The smell of food, even microwaved food from the other end of the house, made him feel ill. Cannon and the rest of Moore’s family frequently ate at restaurants or got takeout to avoid making Moore sick.
But the doctors, and Moore’s support system, helped. He was put on radiation treatments that made him less nauseated. Family and friends, including Cannon and Herman, kept him in good spirits. Before his chemotherapy treatment every week, Herman would make him a goodie bag full of everything he might need: t-shirts, good luck charms, blankets, gum and his favorite snack, circus peanuts.
The goodie bags came in handy during chemotherapy treatments. Moore and Cannon brought treats for the nurses on his chemotherapy days.
“You can’t go in there with a bad attitude,” Moore said. “You’ve got to keep them laughing. They see people come in there that aren’t going to leave, and they keep a smile on their face. There are just great, great people over there.”
Feb. 24, 2016: The first day in almost a year that Cannon could write off as a happy date.
A cancer-free date.
And just in time for Relay for Life 2016.
“When they told me, I looked at (Kim) and we both started crying,” he said. “We’re happy. We’ll take it.”
Now, Moore plans on supporting others who are facing his same battle. At the 2016 Relay for Life, which will be held from Friday, April 8, to Saturday, April 9, Moore will make a speech and take a victory lap.
“Relay for Life is about raising money,” Herman said. “But the American Cancer Society is about more than just the cure. It’s about the support.”
The annual event has between 2,000 and 3,000 attendees. This year, 53 teams will be present, including one for
Area 6 bus drivers and one for Knights Griffin Elementary.
“It’s just to spread the word,” Moore said. “You can survive this disease and have a positive attitude all the way through.”
Cannon said that the biggest difference she’s seen in her husband is his positive attitude. Though he’s always been a jokester and kept everyone laughing, he is now in positive spirits.
“Now we take time for things,” Cannon said. “He’s stopped, and he’s taken time to notice things, people’s feelings and how they care about things.”
As always, there’s no guarantee that Moore will forever be cancer-free. But for now, he’s enjoying the little things: his wife, his friends, his family and getting back on his bus.
Contact Emily Topper at [email protected].