Loving life…one day at the time

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 25, 2007

MURFREESBORO – On Tuesday, Maria Evans drove around town just to look at the azaleas.

Her spontaneous decision was not to due to her fascination with the colorful blossoms or because of a notorious green thumb.

Evans did it because she simply wanted to.

It’s all part of her principle of life as a cancer survivor.

“You have to take it one day at a time,” she said. “There’s always hope and inspiration.”

As Evans sits at her desk in Jenkins Brown Insurance, she is surrounded by reminders that her strength is found amongst family and friends.

On the wall are photos and three plaques proudly displayed, all examples of appreciation of her work with Hertford-Gates Relay for Life.

She also shows off her Relay garb, white t-shirt displaying the event’s namesake and a teal colored ribbon pin placed on the upper right side of her chest signifying ovarian cancer awareness.

Evans refers to her office space as “Relay Grand Central Station” as people often come to her for forms to participate in the event or to donate money.

As an insurance agent, Evans has seen it all, from houses damaged by storms to car accidents.

Her fight with cancer has given her a unique way to handle her clients who are upset with the loss or damage of their material possessions.

She said seeing people stress over material things is something that often “hurts” her.

“I tell them, look, you have to understand all of this can be replaced,” she said. “You can’t replace health.”

Eight years ago after reading a column by Ann Landers that listed the symptoms of ovarian cancer, Evans scheduled a doctor’s appointment.

“I kind of had my suspicions,” she said. “I had every symptom.”

Despite reassurances from her gynecologist that Evans, at the age of 39, was too young for disease, the biopsy results came back positive for stage 3C ovarian cancer.

Since then she’s had three reoccurrences, her latest coming last October.

While her body has endured surgery and treatments of chemo, Evans created her own treatment in order to meet the disease head on. That concoction includes positive thinking, a little help from family and friends, with plenty of humor mixed in.

The latter is often found within the presence of those she calls her “Relay Family,” who knows her as the “Greek Goddess,” in homage to her Grecian roots.

Evans credits her “Relay Family” with getting her through the tough days by giving a simple phone call or dropping by and telling her a joke.

“We all have a warped sense of humor,” she said about cancer survivors. “You got to have humor. It could be worse.”

Once a month, Evans attends a cancer support group in Ahoskie where she finds camaraderie and community in the form of other cancer survivors.

“We talk about similar situations,” she said.

She added that with the information age cancer survivors have been able to swap valuable information of what treatments are available for individuals living with the disease.

Above all, Evans said the group members get inspiration from each other.

“That’s what I want to be, an inspiration, to pick people up,” she said.

She has been able to spread inspiration through her participation with Relay for Life.

Evans estimates she has been involved with Relay for Life for four to five years through being on the committee and participating with a team.

Though this year she was not on the committee, she will be there this weekend (Friday and Saturday at Chowan University) as her team Melrose Woman’s Club (or the Flower Team) sells ferns and geraniums.

“It gives people a chance to come out and remember the ones we’ve lost and hope for the ones still here,” she said about the two-day event. “Relay is to make people aware of the cause.”

To Evans, knowledge is power when it comes to cancer, especially for those that have just been diagnosed.

“Always be positive, don’t think the worse, you’ll get through this,” she advises them. “Don’t be afraid of going to the doctor and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

For Evans, her battle with cancer is just another one of life’s hurdles she has to leap over.

“You can live without your hair,” she said. “You can live with cancer.”