Survivors share stories during Men in Pink kickoff

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, September 26, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Each year the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life raises thousands of dollars toward finding a cure and helping cancer patients.

A recent Men in Pink event as a part of Relay featured survivors’ stories.

Shelly Bryne was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2015 after having health concerns looked into.

“I am a cancer fighter that has zero cancer in my family,” Bryne said.

Her treatment included radiation and chemotherapy for six weeks, followed by surgery. Additional chemotherapy treatments were required after the surgery. Bryne said the side effects were painful and caused spasms in her abdomen, which landed her in the hospital. A few days after being released from the hospital, Bryne developed pneumonia and had to go back to the hospital.

Bryne’s last chemotherapy treatment was in December 2016.

“Then in April of 2018, I had an issue, so I went to my primary doctor for nothing cancer related, I thought,” Bryne said.

The doctor was concerned about Bryne’s lungs and did an x-ray. The doctor saw something unusual on the X-ray and sent her for a CAT scan, which led to more scans and two biopsies. The second biopsy tested positive for cancer.

“It is not lung cancer,” Bryne said. “It is colon cancer that has metastasized to my lung, which for where my tumor was originally that is common.”

She is now in stage four, but the tumor is small and not showing any growth.

“It never even occurred to me until I was done with my radiation treatments and all that to find a support group,” Bryne said.

The American Cancer Society offers a number of support resources to cancer patients and helps connect them to other potentially needed resources. A list of what is available regionally can be accessed at

Breast cancer survivor Patricia Patterson went to the doctor after feeling a lump.

“There was no genetic strand in my family whatsoever,” Patterson said.

The cancerous lump was rather large when Patterson discovered it.

“If I had waited, I would have been terminal,” Patterson said.

During chemotherapy, Patterson developed an infection. After the infection was treated, she had to start over with her treatment. She also had an allergic reaction to one of the drugs.

Patterson said she continued to work while she was receiving treatment because she felt if she stopped she would not make it through.

Since her recovery, Patterson has become the team caption for the St. Vincent’s Chilton Relay for Life team.

Sunny Mays gave the perspective of a caregiver.

“Everyone is a caregiver, just because you are with someone and they have cancer does not mean you are the only caregiver,” Mays said. “Everyone you have contact with is a caregiver.”

Mays said it is important for those who know caregivers to those with cancer to be supportive of the caregiver and help them.

“The encouragement that you give to that person is what helps them fight,” Mays said.

Mays’ husband Larry is battling multiple myeloma.

“It is in the leukemia family,” Sunny Mays said.

She said this type of cancer is “treatable and manageable,” but there is not a cure.

After moving a trampoline, Larry Mays experienced back issues that were concerning. It was found to be cancer.

“God is so good and it was caught early and they took the tumor out,” Sunny Mays said.

After being diagnosed in 2011, Larry Mays received a stem cell transplant. Complications kept the couple in Atlanta where Larry had received treatment for two and a half months.

“One of the things they told us was that everyone who is fighting cancer needs encouragement,” Sunny Mays said. “… We are not only celebrating life with Relay we are fighting with those who are fighting.”

She challenged those present to help be a part of the fight by offering encouragement.

Sunny put this in to practice by stopping by the rooms of cancer patients who had no family with them while they were being treated in Atlanta.

“The Lord will guide you where you need to be,” Sunny Mays said.

Larry had a relapse of the cancer in 2017, but by that time there were five additional drugs that had been developed for treatment.

“Right now, he is doing immunotherapy, its harsh, but not as harsh as straight chemotherapy,” Mays said.

Those present at the Men in Pink event were challenged to be a part or lead a Relay for Life team. Carla D’Andrea of the American Cancer Society said teams will be decorating camp sites again this year. Each team member is asked to raise $100.

Patterson said selling T-shirts raised the most money for her team.

The Chilton County Relay for Life Event will be May 3, 2019.