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Event to bring patients 'HOPE'

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- In 2005, when Wyatt Mitchell was 19, he was diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma.

Shortly before his wedding last year, the cancer re-emerged.

After he and his wife Abby held their wedding in Athens, they drove to Texas so that he could receive treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

This is one of the local stories that residents can expect to come out of the American Cancer Society's Third annual HOPE Ball at the Hilton

Garden Inn on Feb. 6.

Mitchell, one of the event's honorees, was receiving treatment from June until December of last year. What he has been through gave him a new perspective on life.

"I realize how every day is such a blessing," he said. "There is always someone worse off than you."

Dealing with the pressures of being a newlywed added another stumbling block to the ordeal, but the native Albanian said his spouse was very understanding.

"My wife and I got much closer," Mitchell said. "My wife is so amazing. She's made it so much easier."

Mitchell, now 24 and cancer-free, feels honored to be acknowledged at the upcoming charity event.

"It's a real humbling experience just to be chosen," he said. "I'm just one patient; they all have amazing stories. I'm no different."

After undergoing the latest round of surgery and chemotherapy, Mitchell said he feels the worst is over.

"I feel confident I'm through with it," he said.

Dr. Terry Kraus, who has practiced radiation oncology in Albany for six years, is also participating as an honoree at the event.

"I've always had a close relationship with the American Cancer Society," he said. "The American Cancer Society can and will do a considerable amount for cancer patients."

Due to budget constraints, there are some doctors out there who could not do what they do without the Cancer Society's services, Kraus said.

"Many physicians couldn't do research without the American Cancer Society," he said.

The local chapter assists patients in the area with the little things such as money for gas and pain medication, which can go a long way for some patients.

"In Albany, the American Cancer Society does a lot of work in the community," Kraus said. "We have a number of patients that need any help we can get them.

"The American Cancer Society has not only come up to the plate, but has done God's work. If they can't help, they find that person help. I really believe in the American Cancer Society."

The black-tie event being held next month connects well with the chapter's overall mission, Kraus said.

"It's a celebration of life, a celebration of living," he said. "We have a number of people who have cancer and live with cancer. Now they have to learn to live their life.

"In this economy, for any worthwhile nonprofit, it's getting tougher and tougher to get the money they need to do assistance. It (the event) is a chance for people to give to the American Cancer Society and have a good time."

When representatives at the area chapter contacted him about participating in the gala as an honoree, Kraus said he responded, "Are you sure you want me?"

"I'm speechless," he said. "I can think of a dozen physicians and

several thousand patients that are deserving of this honor. I'm just humbled by it."

The event will start with cocktails from 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. From 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m., there will be a program followed by a live auction. After that, there will be entertainment and dancing.

"(The event) gets the information out on the importance of what the American Cancer Society does for research to fight the disease," event chair Glenda Rambo said. "It seems to impact everyone. It brings home the effect cancer has in the immediate area."

Last year, the event attracted 200 people and raised $46,000, which is the same goal officials have for this year. The gala's coordinators seem confident about their chances of reaching that mark.

"We are trying to band together as a community with the hope of helping people band together in the local area," Rambo said. "(The 2010 HOPE Ball Committee) worked endless hours to try to secure sponsorships; they've done a really good job."

Some of the items up for auction include a four-day, three-night Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., vacation home and a 72-foot yacht donated by an Albany native.

During Fiscal Year 2009, the area chapter assisted 210 cancer patients in Dougherty County, said Kathy Furney, the chapter's community manager.

Reservations are required for the event by Jan. 29. Admission is $100 per person. Proceeds for the event will go directly to the local chapter for cancer education, advocacy, research and services.

"We've had great success with it (the event) in the past," Furney said.

Those wishing to attend the gala also have the option of buying tables in honor or memory of a friend or loved one impacted by cancer.

The local chapter of the American Cancer Society also offers services such as wigs and prostheses free of charge, regardless of insurance.

"People don't realize the services we have available," Furney said.

For more information, or to make a reservation, visit www.hopeballalbanyga.org or call the local American Cancer Society chapter at (229) 446-1073.