Cindie Clayton said she was “touched” last year when Dillon Scott, one of her students at Brownwood High School, asked her to walk the “survivor’s walk” for his team at the Relay for Life.
“I’d never done anything like that, and I’m not sure why, but I told Dillon, ‘OK, sure, I’ll make the walk.’”
Clayton, is, after all a survivor. In fact, she’s survived cancer twice. But, she said, if she was touched by Dillon’s invitation, the esprit de corps of the teams and survivors who gathered for the annual Relay for Life event truly lifted her.
And she said she knew she’d never wait to be invited again. This year, she’s involved the 29 cheerleaders — varsity, junior varsity and freshman — at Brownwood High School and the girls have formed a team and will participate in the 2007 Relay for Life event Friday at Gordon Wood Stadium.
Clayton teaches Spanish at Brownwood, and also is the cheerleader sponsor.
“The kids are great,” she said. “They’re really working at this, and I’m proud of them. I told them at tryouts that if they were selected, their service project would be Relay for Life.”
Clayton, 36, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease in 2000, about a month after her 30th birthday. She went into remission, and in fact had her second daughter in October 2003. But when Claire was only 6-weeks-old, and Clayton went for a postnatal checkup, doctors found a suspicious mass that was confirmed the next spring as a recurrent form of the Hodgkin’s.
Throughout her first bout with Hodgkin’s, Clayton continued to teach, but her second bout, she said, doctors at M.D. Anderson said she was a good candidate for a stem cell transplant.
“We really had to just move to Houston for that,” Clayton said. “Claire and Ali stayed with grandparents. I was sick. I was so sick.”
But she said, even when she was the sickest, she believed she would survive.
“I had lots of support too. Brownwood Independent School District created a sick leave pool, and also took up a collection that helped us financially,” Clayton said. “We had support from family, from friends. The prayers, the donations … so many people did so much.”
Clayton said she’d been “clear” for her last three checkups and feels “really good.”
The cheerleaders will be “out and about” today and Friday trying to raise as much money as they can before the start of the Relay at 6 p.m.
Clayton said the girls will raffle off a brisket from Smitty’s Bar-B-Que and are selling chances for that. The drawing will be 11 p.m. Friday.
Clayton is married to Chris Clayton, who has a construction business in Brownwood, and has two daughters. Ali is a freshman squad cheerleader and Claire will be 4 in October.