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HOPE: ANNUAL EVENT SETS GOAL OF $100,000

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Teenager shares her battle with cancer

By Jamie Baker-Nantz

Felicity Spicer has spent much of her young life using her talents to bring joy to nursing home patients, hospital patients and anyone who enjoyed a good gospel song.

This Grant County songbird, with her signature bright smile has been singing as long as she can remember.

She’s performed at groundbreaking ceremonies for the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery in Williamstown, the Grant County Relay For Life and in the Williamstown’s Derby Idol contest, which she won in 2007, but early last year her ears heard something unbelievable.

“You’ve got cancer,” that’s what the doctor told her after she was sent for a biopsy on her neck.

For over a year, Felicity had suffered from a sore throat, sinus congestion. She felt run down and tired all the time. She made monthly doctor visits and once was diagnosed with Mononucleosis. She took antibiotics and more antibiotics but she didn’t feel better.

She switched doctors and in March 2010, Dr. Viral Patel in Crittenden sent her in for tests. The results would be not one, but two types of thyroid cancer.

“It’s rare for someone my age to have this type of cancer,” Spicer said.

Spicer told the doctor that she traveled the area and sang. He told her there was a good chance the cancer would damage her vocal cords and quite possibly she might not be able to even speak.

“He gave me a choice – surgery or no surgery,” she said. “I told him I didn’t have a choice.”

Spicer’s family had experienced its share of cancer and Felicity said in most cases it ended in death.

Her mother, Chrissy Williams, had cervical cancer when she was pregnant with Felicity. Doctors told her she needed chemotherapy and radiation or she’d die, but the treatments would kill her unborn child.

“I told them that God would watch over me and if he’d see fit to let me have this baby, I’d dedicate her to his work,” Chrissy said.

Chrissy has also battled and beaten breast cancer.

Once she heard the diagnosis, Felicity said she went home and prayed.

“This wasn’t just about my life, but about what I love to do and that’s sing,” she said. “I prayed that if God would bring me through this and my story touched just one person then it would be worth it.”

On May 17, 2010, she had what was supposed to be a two-hour surgery that turned into four hours. Half of her thyroid was removed, but because the cancer was an aggressive form she had to have a second operation on June 4. Doctors removed the rest of her thyroid.

But her battle with cancer wasn’t over. During a follow up blood test, doctors discovered residual thyroid tissue with cancer cells still intact, meaning Felicity would need radioactive iodine radiation ablation.

Felicity began her first treatment, two days before she turned 19. She said the doctors told her she’d be sick, the sickest she’d ever been in her young life.

“On my birthday, I was so sick. I couldn’t even stand on my own,” she said.

Chrissy said there were several nights the doctors told her and Felicity’s stepfather, Phil Williams, that Felicity may not live through the night.

“I was so deathly ill, that I did not even remember or recognize who my parents were,” she said.

It was during this time, the foster children the family took in prior to Felicity’s illness had to be removed from the home due to the radiation she’d be receiving as treatment for the cancer.

Despite the extent of the illnesses toll on her body, Spicer never stopped smiling and believing that she’d be healed.

“I tried to stay positive and tell people that I felt fine when they’d ask, but truthfully I’d been sick so long that I didn’t know what it felt like not to be sick,” she said.

For Chrissy, watching her only child near death was horrifying.

“I didn’t know why we had to go through this, but I knew that God would keep his promise,” Chrissy said.

“This wasn’t the first trial I’ve lived through, but this cut the deepest,” she said of watching her beautiful daughter, normally full of life and health, at her weakest.

After graduating from Grant County High School in 2009, Felicity began college classes at Northern Kentucky University where she was on the Dean’s List both semesters in spite of her illness.

When she turned 19, Felicity lost her medical coverage. Her stepfather, also, fell off the roof of their Crittenden home during this time and was unable to work for several months. Area churches donated money to help pay for her treatments.

Spicer could have lost her faith, but instead it grew stronger.

“I have chosen to believe that if I stand, the people whom God has put in a position of great influence will stand with me. I have many needs at this time, but more importantly a testimony to share,” she said.

Her faith would continue to be tested as she began her treatments and lost her ability to talk and then the ability to sing.

“When you love something so much and then it’s gone, it gets you really down,” she said.

She could have given up, but instead Felicity decided that she’d been blessed to travel and sing for 15 years so if she lost her ability to sing, then God must have something else in store, so she began to teach herself to play guitar and piano.

“I thought if I couldn’t make a joyful noise one way, then I’d try another,” she said, smiling.

And one day, it happened. She opened her mouth to sing and she could.

“It’s not like I was before,” she said. “I’ve got to start from scratch, but I can sing.”

On May 20, she will sing at 7 p.m. at the Grant County Relay For Life, the signature fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.

Felicity has long been a supporter of the ACS, having raised funds for their programs. For her work with the ACS, she was named a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International During the last eight years, she’s raised $45,000 for the ACS.

She’s no stranger to the relay, having sung several times and watching her mother walk the survivor’s lap, which is the first lap of the relay. This year, instead of standing on the sidelines, she’ll walk with her mother as a survivor.

 “Nothing we live through or go through is in vain,” Felicity said. “We all have a purpose. This experience has changed my life to be a better servant and made me more compassionate to other people’s situations.”

Felicity will continue to be monitored with scans every three months for the next several years, but the best news – her cancer is now in remission.

“I’m happy I’m alive, but I know the battle continues for others, but I’m hoping that if my story can plant one seed, it will have been worth it,” Felicity said.

RELAY FOR LIFE

The Grant County Relay For Life will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday, May 20 at Grant County Park in Crittenden. with a special cancer survivor’s lap, honoring those who’ve beaten cancer.

Survivors will join together for the Relay’s first lap, unified in victory and hope, while other participants surround the track and cheer them on.

Relay For Life events are held overnight as individuals and teams camp out, with the goal of keeping at least one team member on the track for 12 hours. For those not walking, there are contests, games, entertainment, auctions and a time to slow down and visit with friends and neighbors.

The event isn’t just for cancer survivors and their families, but for the community.

THINGS TO KNOW IF YOU GO:

For Survivors:
• The event is open to all cancer survivors. Registration begins at 5:30 p.m. Survivors will receive a free meal and goodie bags.

Luminary Ceremony:

• A luminaria ceremony is held at 10 p.m. Luminarias are $5 each and can be bought in honor/memory of a loved one.

For the community:
• All money raised during the 12-hour event funds programs of the American Cancer Society and ACS research.