Cancer survivor recalls day he received diagnosis – Victoria Advocate

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Wardell Barker won’t forget the day he received the worst news of his life.

It was eight years ago.

It was September.

It was a hot day.

“I walked into my doctor’s office and he told me, ‘We need to talk. I apologize. I’ve made a mistake,'” Barker recalled.

Just a few weeks before that, Barker went to see his doctor about two lumps on the side of his face. They each originally were the size of a small bead but were growing. They were growing fast, he said.

Barker’s doctor took a sample and sent him home with a few stitches. He thought the bumps were cysts.

They weren’t.

“He looked at me and said, ‘You have cancer,'” Barker said, his voice quivering with the memory.

Since 2008, Barker has participated in the annual See You on the Track event benefiting Relay For Life of Victoria County.

He does it to remember that day. To remember the feeling of his stomach turning inside him. To remember how he cried in his hot car for half an hour as he thought about how he’d tell his wife and six children.

“I was supposed to be their rock, and I was crumbling,” he said.

Until that point, Barker said, his goal was to outlive both of his parents. His father died in his late 30s, and his mother died of brain cancer when she was 49.

Barker was 48 at the time.

“I started to cry because I was so close to the age my mother was when she passed away,” he said.

Barker joined about 100 other cancer survivors Saturday at the VISD track.

Holding the hand of his wife, Marsia, the entire time, Barker and the group circled the track as members from the community cheered them on, clapping and yelling, “You’re awesome.”

Barker said having the support of his community is a great feeling.

“It helps you to know you’re not alone in this fight and others are going through it with you,” he said. “It makes me cry happy tears.”

The annual event is the culmination of the hard work put in by team supporters who raise money for the American Cancer Society throughout the year, said organization specialist Keisha Smith.

This year marks the event’s 20th anniversary.

To date, almost $2.7 million has been raised at the event.

About $100,000 was raised so far this year, Smith said.

Barker’s wife sat with him in the grass in a small portion of field away from the track as he shared his story. She wore a cross on a silver chain around her neck and dark black glasses. Her face was stained with tears as she listened to him.

Marsia Barker, 61, said people give her a hard time because she often sees life through rose-colored glasses. But when her husband came home that hot September afternoon eight years ago and told her he had cancer, her optimism paid off.

“I heard his pain, and I was determined to be the rock,” she said. “I said, ‘We are going to beat this.'”

That leap of faith, rooted in the couple’s strong belief in Christ, helped them get past the worst day in their lives.

The couple said they continue to support the event because it’s an opportunity for them to celebrate another year alive.

Barker is 57 today.

He’s outlived his father.

He’s outlived his mother.

But he hasn’t forgotten his cancer or the possibility it may return one day.

“If someone told me I had cancer again, I wouldn’t be at all surprised,” he said, removing his glasses to show the scars on either side of his face where doctors dug the cancer away.

“I have a constant reminder every morning when I look in the mirror.”


Cancer survivor recalls day he received diagnosis – Victoria Advocate