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Fight takes survivor to next level.

Byline: Jim Feehan The Register-Guard

Randy Harrelson figures he has too much living ahead of him to let a deadly form of brain cancer get him down.

In December 2003, Harrelson, 40, was suffering from brutal headaches severe enough to send him to the emergency room. A subsequent MRI confirmed that Harrelson had a brain tumor.

Surgery was ordered to remove the golf ball-sized growth, but doctors discovered Harrelson had a glioblastoma tumor, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

The prognosis: They gave Harrelson six months to live.

"Don't listen to doctors," Harrelson said. "They are not the ones to tell you when you'll die."

Harrelson's steely determination to live a normal life while battling cancer caught the eye of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a cancer awareness and advocacy group founded in 1997 by the cancer survivor and Tour de France champion cyclist.

On Wednesday, Harrelson, who lives in Eugene, will meet with Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Sens. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in Washington, D.C., to lobby for more funding for cancer research.

Harrelson, an installation technician for Qwest Communications International for the past seven years, is one of two representatives from Oregon selected to participate in the Lance Armstrong Foundation's Livestrong Day.

The day's goal is to mobilize cancer survivors to raise awareness on Capitol Hill of their needs. One thing Harrelson and others will be seeking is increased funding for the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Comprehensive Cancer Control program.

After his grim prognosis, Harrelson was determined to win the battle with glioblastoma, which has a median survival time of less than a year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Four weeks after surgery, Harrelson was back at work while still undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Through it all, Harrelson credits his wife, Susanne, for helping him to survive, including feeding him when he was too weak to eat.

"She spoon-fed me oatmeal in the morning," Harrelson said.

There was no giving up for Harrelson, who was not about to let cancer dictate his life, said Susanne. Besides, he had three children to help raise: Scotty, 18; Richard, 14; and Brittany, 9.

In the months after his diagnosis, Harrelson took time to help out at Special Olympics events, play lead guitar at his church and coach his daughter's Little League softball team.

About a year after the initial diagnosis, Harrelson took his family on a trip to France, where he visited the grave of his uncle, Walter Harrelson, a paratrooper who was killed following the Normandy invasion in World War II.

"I always promised my father, my aunt and my uncle that I'd visit him," he said.

In January, the tumor reappeared and the doctors were not optimistic about the prognosis, Harrelson said.

But, after another a battery of chemotherapy treatments, Harrelson's cancer is again in remission. Harrelson, meanwhile, did his part for his future health: He quit smoking and drinking.

Whatever the odds, Harrelson said, he'll continue to "fight the good fight."

"If you have faith, keep it," Harrelson said. "If you don't have (faith), find it."


Randy Harrelson, with wife Susanne, daughter Brittany and son Richard. Harrelson will meet with lawmakers to promote cancer awareness.
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Title Annotation:Health; His cancer in remission, Randy Harrelson heads to Capitol Hill for Livestrong
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 15, 2006
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