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Arkansas senator: Battle with cancer was humbling

By MARK GREGORY/The Sentinel-Record
June 3, 2011 at 1:03 a.m.


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who will lead the Survivors Lap at the Relay for Life cancer-research benefit event Friday, says his battle with cancer 15 years ago was "really a great lesson in humility for me."

"We always think that we're in control of everything, but something as precious as your health and your life, even, many times is beyond your control," Pryor said Thursday in a telephone interview. "It was a great growth experience for me."

Pryor, 48, was 33 when he received his diagnosis of clear-cell sarcoma 15 years ago. He said he was convinced after his diagnosis that, if he had anything to do with it, he was going to beat cancer.

"But I also recognized that a lot of that was beyond my control," Pryor said. "And as hard as I was wanting to fight, and as good as doctors as I had, and as great a treatment as I received at UAMS and CARTI, I knew that, ultimately, it was beyond my control."

The Relay is being held again this year in the infield at the Oaklawn Park horse-racing track. The event, which continues Saturday, is the major fundraiser in Garland County for the American Cancer Society.

Pryor said he is participating to encourage people to "get out there and fight to beat cancer, but also help the families that are coping with it."

He said longtime Relay supporter and cancer survivor Dick Antoine, a local radio personality, insisted that Pryor participate in the event this year, and Pryor said he was "thrilled to do."

"Hot Springs is a great community that really supports causes like this, and it's always great to see the community support for cancer survivors and cancer research, and I'm just proud to be part of it," Pryor said.

He said he participated at other Relays in Arkansas when he was Arkansas attorney general.

Pryor said he is especially grateful to be able to walk the Survivors Lap, since he was told 15 years ago that he may have to have a leg amputated as part of his treatment.

He said it was 15 months from "start to finish," from the time he had cancer surgery until he was able to walk on his own, without losing the leg.

"Mine was a long process, but I came out of it great, and I appreciate my doctors, and appreciate all the prayers that were lifted up for me all over the state," he said. "I'm glad I'm here, because the first diagnosis and prediction on outcome was that people with this kind of cancer had less than a 50-percent survival rate. So, I knew that I was in a fight."

The good news was that the cancer was discovered early enough. "That's really what saved me. We discovered it early enough to where we could treat it and basically cut it out," he said.

Pryor said he was told flatly by one doctor that his leg would probably have to be amputated. However, Pryor said, he went to see Dr. Richard Nicholas, an orthopedic oncologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, who told him that they would try to save his leg, and they did.

"I was very close to having to have a prosthetic leg for the rest of my life, so that's another reason I'm thrilled to be able to walk" in the Relay, Pryor said.

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Information from: The Sentinel-Record, http://www.hotsr.com

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