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Resilience in Round 2: Local woman stays upbeat in second cancer fight

By Racey Burden | Published Wednesday, April 26, 2017
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In 2009, Orvelda Bridges was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through all the treatments – chemotherapy, radiation – and came out the other side cancer-free. Then, just last year, a routine checkup led to Bridges being diagnosed with liver cancer, and it had spread to one lung.

Orvelda Bridges

The treatment cycle started again, this time with shots to raise her white blood cell count and liquid chemo. Even though she’s been through this before – and it’s harder the second time around – Bridges is keeping her head up.

“I laugh and I cut up all the time,” she said. “I may not be feeling well, but no one will ever know it.”

Bridges maintains an upbeat attitude by cracking jokes with her doctors and nurses, even in the midst of treatment. Although she has family and friends close by who could take her to the Cancer Center, she feels pride at always being able to drive herself. She’s lost all of her hair, but she’ll cheerfully explain how she applied fake eyelashes for her grandson’s wedding. Bridges once calmly watched as a liter of fluid was removed from one of her lungs during treatment, remarking with characteristic cheer, “Then you look at a liter of soda pop and think ‘Good Lord!'”

Her resilience is especially remarkable considering she lost her husband to cancer 25 years ago. A lot about how the disease is treated has changed since then, Bridges said, and she’s hopeful that after a few more rounds of chemo, she’ll be cancer-free again and for good.

“Knock on wood,” she said, then knocked on her head, covered by a blue do-rag to hide her hair loss. “I hope I don’t have to go through it again.”

Bridges doesn’t just focus on her own well-being, either. She’s been active with Relay for Life for several years, making candy she calls “hot trash” to sell to raise money for other cancer patients and cooking for lunch fundraisers at James Wood. This year she’s the co-captain of a Relay team of 27 people, eight of whom are cancer survivors. It’s a tight-knit community formed to make something good come from something terrible.

“You see a lot of friends you meet while taking your treatments, and you get to know them fairly well,” she said. “It’s our third year to do it, and we really enjoy doing it together.

“Relay means a lot to me.”

Every year Bridges helps hold the banner during the survivor’s walk, the first lap of the nighttime relay. She cries every time.

For anyone who’s just been diagnosed with cancer, she encourages them to visit Relay for Life right around 9 p.m.

“At 9 they light up the luminarias, and in the stands they spell out ‘hope,'” Bridges said. “I get goose-pimples just thinking about it. It’s outstanding, really.”

Walking in Hope

WALKING IN HOPE – Cancer survivors and their friends and families walk around the Decatur Middle School track during Relay for Life. This year’s Relay kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday, April 28. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

RELAY FOR LIFE

Relay for Life is a fundraiser that supports cancer patients in Wise County. The money raised during Relay helps for pay patients’ transportation to treatment and keeps the wig and hat room at the Wise Health Imaging Center stocked.

Relay’s opening ceremony starts 7 p.m. Friday, April 28, at the Decatur Middle School track. Sign-ups are still open at relayforlife.org, and teams can check-in from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday. For information, call Amanda Braudaway at 817-366-8131.

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