'It has been a battle'
City Councilwoman Diane Morris fighting cancer

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Diane Morris spent three years as chairman of American Cancer Society's "Relay for Life" fundraiser and cancer survivor celebration event in Elizabethton.
   She often cried watching cancer survivors both young and old take their "victory lap" at the Relay event signifying the victory over a protean disease that afflicts millions around the world.
   Little did she know surviving cancer would become more than just a cause.
   "It a little odd when your chairman ends up having to fight the battle," said Morris, who was diagnosed with rectal cancer in September. "Hopefully through the treatment and experience I have to go through, maybe I can help the American Cancer Society even more."
   The Elizabethton City Councilwoman spoke to the Star this week at her home and talked about having the disease and her campaign to win a second term on the Council.
   Looking drained but remaining upbeat, Morris said she had just completed her first two weeks of a six-week schedule of combined radiation and chemotherapy treatment on Friday.
   "Once upon a time when they told you 'you have cancer', there was no hope," Morris said. "Now, there is hope.
   "I am going to be fighting it, and be back to as close to normal as I can be," she said with a laugh.
   Morris said she sensed a physical problem in July when she began experiencing extreme pain that did not go away.
   She went to the Sycamore Shoals Hospital for an outpatient procedure hoping to determine the source of the pain. While undergoing the procedure, Morris said she became "extremely sick, maybe the sickest I've ever been in my life".
   She was diagnosed with rectal cancer during the week of Sept. 23 and was admitted as an inpatient where she spent nine days.
   Morris is undergoing a six week program of radiation and chemotherapy treatment at the Johnson City Medical Center. She carries a vinyl-bound chemotherapy dispenser with her at all times to treat the tumor while radiation treatments bombard the tumor with gamma rays.
   She said she finds solace among fellow cancer patients who understand what they are up against but are determined to win over the disease.
   "When you to get chemo, there are 10 recliners in the room," she said. "Patients are sitting there getting IVs and keeping each other cheered up."
   Morris recalled meeting a fellow cancer patient who worked a nurse when she was diagnosed with cancer.
   "She said when she was first diagnosed," said Morris, "she got all her people together in the doctor's office and told them cancer was the best thing that ever happened to her because she got a different outlook on life."
   The youngest member of the City Council, Morris was elected to her first term in 1998. Her name will be on the ballot for re-election on Nov. 5.
   Absent from the September and October council meetings, Morris said she rarely leaves her residence except to receive radiation and chemotherapy treatment.
   Morris says that while she won't be knocking on every door in town as in 1998, cancer will not stop her re-election campaign.
   The telephone coupled with friends and family would keep her campaign kicking through November, Morris said.
   This year's Relay for Life event had more than 100 cancer survivors walking around the Elizabethton High School track. Morris said she plans to join the Relay -- this time as a survivor -- in 2003.
   "I still have ups and downs some days," Morris admits. "It has been a battle ... it has been tough, but it is a battle that can be won."