Charolete Fern Williams, 19, a 2008 graduate of Salem High School, was 14 years old when she received the news that she had Osteosarcoma, a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the bone.
"She was very active in sports. She played softball, basketball, and ran cross-country," Charolete's mother Theresa Williams said. "During that summer she had been to band camp and basketball camp. When she came back from basketball camp she actually thought she had hurt her leg, right above her knee, during playing," Theresa said.
Right away the family started seeking a diagnosis and Dr. Kauffman of Salem directed them to Dr. Knox of Mountain Home, who found the cancer and had to deliver the news.
Knox called Theresa and asked to speak with her about her daughter. "He said he was 99 percent sure that it was cancer," Theresa said.
Charolete, who did not expect to be facing her mortality at such a young age, was caught off guard by the diagnosis. "I was pretty shocked," Charolete said.
With chemotherapy, surgeries and a myriad of pills ahead, a strong positive force in her recovery was her friends, who Charolete said were always there for her.
"She was lucky hers came out instead of going up and down the bone or she could have ended up with no bone," Theresa said.
Charolete's knee began to swell and that caught the family's attention. "Luckily hers came out and swelled up. So, we caught it earlier than a person normally would," Theresa said.
Recovery for Charolete was not an easy road with several complications and eight surgeries. "Her main surgery was on Dec. 18, 2003, and they had her home on the 24th for Christmas but she wasn't done until July on her chemo," Theresa said.
Almost five years later Charolete, although still taking a break from sports, is leading a normal life. "She was homecoming queen," Theresa said. "We are just thrilled she is doing good and cancer free. She hasn't had any signs of anything at our appointments." Charolete said it is almost like it never happened.
Along with sports Charolete was a member of the Salem Band and continued to play after her treatment saying the alto saxophone was her main focus.
With Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock behind her, the Williams family walks and participates in Relay for Life where they walk to raise much-needed funds to fight cancer and raise awareness of cancer prevention and treatment. "We always try to stay active in Salem's Relay for Life for sure," Theresa said.
Currently, Charolete is looking to the future and continuing her education. This fall she is planning on attending the Mountain Home campus of Arkansas State University.
A cancer survivor at 19, Charolete overcame a condition that affects 1,500 people a day. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., exceeded only by heart disease. One of every four deaths in the U.S. is from cancer, according to medical authorities.
Since 1990, there have been approximately 5 million cancer deaths. "I was lucky," Charolete said.
Oregon County Relay for Life schedule of events
Friday, May 16
7 p.m. -- Opening ceremony will feature the Survivor's lap at the Thayer High School Football Field.
9 p.m. -- luminary ceremony.
10 p.m. to 2 a.m. -- Drawings for prizes.
10 p.m. -- Queen Contest. This is where each team picks a man and they dress in women's clothing, including a purse, and go through the crowd having people at the event put cash in their purse. At the end of the contest, whichever man has the most money is crowned queen.
11 p.m. -- Fight back Ceremony.
Saturday, May 17
6:30 to 7 a.m. presentation of awards.