The honorary chairman of Lincolntonâ€™s Relay for Life has certainly earned his title.
John Elmore spent six years off and on fighting cancer, which was found at different times in his kidney, lungs, throat and hip.
At one point, Elmore was told that he had a five percent chance of surviving. Luckily, he took that information with a grain of salt.
â€œYou donâ€™t dwell on it,â€ he said.
Now after five years free and clear of cancer, the only sign of his battle is the crutches he uses due to his hip.
â€œI donâ€™t worry one bit about cancer,â€ he said. â€œIf it does reoccur, Iâ€™ll just take it as it is.â€
Elmore was first diagnosed in 1994 at the age of 58. A retired principal, he was running a convenience store.
â€œI kind of suspected things,â€ he said. â€œI didnâ€™t really have a real strong reaction of doom or anything. I know itâ€™s something that happens, and I just go day by day.â€
Two weeks after being diagnosed he had surgery. He was told â€˜We got it allâ€™ and for a long time had no more problems.
After five cancer-free years, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, which spread to his trachea. His family took the news hard.
â€œThey were probably more upset than I was,â€ he said.
This battle with cancer proved more difficult. Not only did it spread to Elmoreâ€™s trachea, he also felt pain following the procedure in his hip.
â€œI kept telling doctors â€˜You strapped me down too hard on that operating table, and you cracked my hip,â€ said Elmore.
Unfortunately, the problem was much worse than a crack. Doctors found a tumor the size of an egg and announced it inoperable.
After much searching, Elmore found a doctor willing to operate, but he knew he ran the risk of bleeding to death.
Both Elmore and his doctor credit a higher power to Elmoreâ€™s survival of the operation.
â€œI never lost hope,â€ he said.
Another battle came following the surgery when Elmoreâ€™s one remaining kidney started bleeding due to blood-thinning medicine.
Elmore was flown in a helicopter from Lincolnton to Charlotte and once again triumphed over a brush with death.
Soon after, however, he learned he had 18 more spots on his lungs. It was at this point he was told he had a five percent chance of survival.
Elmore rejected this information and persevered. He underwent a treatment called interleukin from October to January of 2000. Some doctors told him the cure would be worse the disease.
Elmore went through the week-long treatments every other week.
â€œThat was painful,â€ he said. â€œYou go in Monday morning, itâ€™s awful â€“ the thought of being there all week.â€
Luckily, this was the last leg of Elmoreâ€™s battle with cancer. Since the treatment, he has been healthy and cancer-free.
He credits his wife and daughter for his strength. Elmore has also made connections with other cancer patients and survivors.
Relay for Life is a time that makes him realize he was not alone in his struggle.
â€œIt impresses you to know you have a lot of company in your despair,â€ he said.
These days he doesnâ€™t spend too much time worrying. Instead, he focuses on his work as a contractor and caring for his wife.
â€œShe was my biggest support,â€ he said. â€œShe wouldnâ€™t give up.â€
And neither would he.
by Sarah Grano