Smokies Baseball hosts cancer fundraiser Friday

Relay for Life members share their experiences with the disease
Apr. 25, 2013 @ 11:59 PM

In an effort to raise funds for Sevier County Relay for Life, Smokies Baseball has partnered with Sevier County Economic Development Council to host Night at the Ballpark on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets to the event will include field level seating to the game, fireworks and a meal. The cost for each adult ticket is $15, and the cost for children is $13. Tickets may be purchased at http://www.smokiesbaseball.com/grouplink. For each ticket purchased through this link, the Smokies will donate an additional $5 to Relay for Life.

This event has special significance, because two members of the local Relay for Life Team, Kelly DeBord and Matt Strautner, both had recent encounters with cancer. Project Coordinator Allen Newton, who serves as the Executive Director of Sevier County Economic Development Council, hopes to raise $10,000 through the fundraiser.

Dubord, who has served as chairperson for the Relay event in years past, said she never realized how close to home cancer would hit.

In August of last year, Dubord visited her primary care physician after noticing a lump on her left breast. “Within a week, she had set up an appointment for me to have a mammogram. The following day I had an urgent message, and I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma,” she said.

When a biopsy conducted at a later appointment revealed cancer in the right breast as well, Kelly made the decision to undergo a bilateral mastectomy.

Dubard has undergone chemotherapy treatments for her stage 2B breast cancer, and today she is doing well.

“I’ve always been a positive person, and I’ve always loved life, but a diagnosis like this brings you a new focus and appreciation. It gives you the realization that every moment counts,” she said

In addition, all the support she has received has strengthened Dubord’s committment to serving others. “Until you hear the words cancer and experience the outpouring of phone calls and cards, even from people out of state, you don’t realize how much it means,” she said.

Throughout her time in treatment, Dubord said she has received strength from God and received a special blessing in the timing of the birth of her new granddaughter, Caroline, who was born in February 2012. “She’s been my strength and support,” Dubord said.”When I went to have my hair cut at short as possible after chemo, I didn’t have time to get upset. They plopped her in my lap, and she gave me a big hug.”

Matt Strutner, director of corporate ticket development for the Tennessee Smokies, began his battle with cancer in September. When he began experienciing pain in his appendix region, he originally attributed it to a pulled muscle.

Early one morning, Strutner woke up doubled over in pain. “No matter what I did, I couldn’t get comfortable,” he said.

At his wife’s encouragement, Strutner scheduled an appointment with his general practitioner, who immediately diagnosed him with appendicitis and sent him to Parkwest Hospital in Knoxville.  A series of tests revealed a ruptured and infected appendix that required an operation.

While performing the surgery, the doctor found a cancerous lymph node in Strutner’s appendix, and he was subsequently diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer. As a preventive measure, all 14 lymph nodes were removed, and six months of chemotherapy were prescribed.

“It was hard to go from having a regular life, and what you believe to be a healthy lifestyle, to being confined to a two-week stay in the hospital and not being able to do anything for yourself,” he said.

“But I feel blessed by the outstanding support I received through church, college friends, even friends of friends.”

Strutner said his battle strengthened the bond between him and his wife. “I learned how strong she is and how much her support meant to me. Her strength really came out during all of this,” he said.

His latest scan results will be available on Friday, the day of the event, and Strutner hopes for a good report. “It definitely makes you take a step back and fully appreciate the value of your friends and family,” he said.

jfrye@themountainpress.com