RELAY: Grooms went from Relay supporter to cancer survivor

Published 10:49 pm Friday, April 29, 2011

At the beginning of April, Jerry Grooms complained of pains on his left side. One Monday while enjoying time on the river, the pain worsened, and the next morning it traveled to his right side.

“My right side was on fire,” said Grooms, a 59-year-old Alabama Power retiree. “It felt like kidney stones because I’ve had them before.”

After visiting the doctor and having X-rays, kidney stones were discovered and so was a growth on Grooms’ right kidney.

Grooms’ doctor was 95 percent sure the growth was cancerous but consulted another doctor and performed another X-ray using dye to be sure.


“During the process, I really didn’t know what to say,” said Grooms. “You never expect to go through this even though you have relatives that have. You think, ‘It’s never going to get me,’ and that’s normal to think.”

Relay For Life has played a significant role in Grooms’ life. He got involved with Relay through his church, Highland Baptist Church in Clanton, never dreaming that Relay For Life would have a different meaning after cancer struck his mother, Virginia Grooms; his brother’s wife, Susan Grooms; his wife, Vickey and then him.

Grooms’ wife is a cancer survivor of 12 years and has had a double mastectomy and recently completed her last chemotherapy treatment.

“Everyone has been affected in some way—whether friend, family member or themselves,” he said. “It’s the people, the prayers and friends and family that have helped me get through this.”

After testing and X-rays, Grooms was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer in which the cancerous cells are found in the lining of very small tubes (tubules) in the kidney.

“The kidney stones were the true blessing in all of this because kidney stones usually do not change sides,” said Grooms. “But mine did, and both of my doctors have told me if the stone would have stayed on the left side then they would have never seen the tumor on the right.”

“I can see the headline: Kidney Stones Save Cancer Survivor,” he said. “You never think all these years supporting Relay For Life––I’ve had a friend say, ‘Now it’s your turn.’”

A day after the discovery of the tumor and kidney stones, Grooms went into surgery and had the stones removed. Two weeks later, the tumor was extracted.

Grooms was up out of bed walking around the hospital about six hours after the surgery at Shelby Baptist Medical Center.

“It’s been tough, but I have a lot of support—it’s a family affair,” he said. “I told the doctor to do whatever he needed to do. I’m an emotional person, but still, I am going to be alright. People have not let me get down.”

Grooms has not only received support from his family but has also received an abundance of support from the community and churches. He has received cards from Sunday School classes and people who he does not know—and is more than thankful.

“There is nothing I can do about it,” said Grooms. “But with my family, friends and God on my side, what more do you need?”

Grooms’ case is considered unique because he did not have to receive chemotherapy or radiation for his tumor. His doctor told him there would be no benefit or even enough difference in the results, so there was no need to have it, he said joyfully.

“A lot of it (cancer medicine) is in pill form due to research from money that has been raised, and the survival rate has grown because of the research,” he said.

Grooms has held a seat on the Relay For Life committee, handling the logistics, for 18 years.

He has enjoyed working with committee members Kimberly Williams, state personnel; Linda Hand; Ann Glasscock; and his pastor, Robert Griffin this year, he said.

“We try to have a good time, and there is lots of good entertainment at the event,” said Grooms. “The Relay For Life event is kind of like going to Wal-Mart. If you want to see someone, go there and you will run into them.”

Grooms also used to be a radio announcer who spoke to survivors and sponsors but never dreamed he would actually be one, he said.

Despite it all, Grooms has kept a positive attitude and strong faith and has not let his current condition stop him from celebrating the things that mean more to him now than ever.

“I don’t know what I would have done without my family being there for me – the stronghold,” he said. “And I’ve been with Relay for 18 good years and hopefully we have about 50 more good ones.”