RUSSELLVILLE — Korey Heath of Russellville will serve as honorary chair when this year’s Relay for Life of Pope and Yell counties is held Friday.
Korey, 13, was diagnosed on June 18, 2012, with medulloblastoma, a malignant tumor of the central nervous system arising in the cerebellum. She had been having horrible headaches, she said, and the diagnosis was made after she underwent an MRI at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The results showed a large mass at the bottom of her brain stem, and she had surgery the next day.
“When I was first diagnosed, I did not realize what all I was going to have to go through,” Korey said. During her 17-day stay at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, she was awakened to have her blood drawn every hour. She had a drain tube placed in her head, and after her stay, Korey and her family drove to Little Rock every day for weeks for her to undergo radiation therapy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
“My favorite part of being at Arkansas Children’s Hospital was the unlimited ice cream and my nurse, Sydney,” Korey said. She also enjoyed arts and crafts and playing Mario Kart with her dad in the playroom.
Korey will continue to go for an MRI at UAMS every three months for the next two years. She still has a port in her chest for her chemotherapy treatments and will finish her last treatment on June 17, one day short of two years from her diagnosis.
As a result of the treatments, Korey missed her whole sixth-grade year of school, which was the first time she and her twin sister had been apart for any length of time.
The Heath family had attended Relay for Life once before Korey was diagnosed with cancer. She said her favorite parts of the relay were bump-and-jumps, the face painting and the food. Korey said she is excited to attend Relay for Life as honorary chair and said she plans to bring the friends she made at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, who are also battling cancer.
“It’s such an honor to have a strong young lady like Korey be a part of Relay for Life,” said Leigh Ann Veach, co-chairwoman of this year’s Relay for Life.
“Her story can inspire and give hope to so many others going through similar experiences, and the committee is thrilled that Korey is serving as an honorary chair for our event this year,” Veach said. “Korey is a great example of the fact that people of all ages can be an inspiration to others.”
This year’s Relay for Life of Pope and Yell counties will begin Friday with opening ceremonies at 7 p.m. at the Pope County Fairgrounds.
A full 12 hours of activities are planned until closing ceremonies at 6 a.m. Saturday, with the relay concluding by 7 a.m.
More than 20 teams have been raising money in an effort to meet this year’s goal of $80,000. All proceeds from Relay for Life will go to the American Cancer Society to fund research and services to cancer patients.
“We urge everyone to come out and support Korey and the whole relay effort this year,” Veach said.
For more information about the Relay for Life, visit the event’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RelayForLifeOfPopeandYell.