"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.
Fulton County Relay for Life schedule of events
"Finding a Cure Under the Big Top"
Friday, May 30
5:30 p.m. -- Registration of Survivors
6 p.m. -- Opening ceremony will feature the Survivor's lap at the Salem High School Football Field. Scholarship presentation.
6:30 p.m. Survivor's dinner.
6-8 p.m. -- Free hot dogs and lemonade.
6:30-9:45 p.m. -- Silent Auction.
6:30 p.m. -- Live music begins.
6:30 p.m. -- Ron Plumlee and Friends.
7:30 p.m. -- Salem Assembly of God Youth Band.
7:50 p.m. -- Quilt drawing.
8 p.m. -- Locks of Love Haircut.
8:15 p.m. -- Ron Plumlee and Friends.
8:55 p.m. -- Luminaria Ceremony, Balloon Release, Slide Show.
9:30 p.m. -- Music by Casey Hall.
11 p.m. -- Team Games Begin
Rockers, "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"
Saturday, May 31
Midnight -- Wee Care Day Care
1 a.m. -- Caregivers
2 a.m. -- Viola Teachers
3 a.m. -- Bank of Salem
4 a.m. -- White Oak
5 a.m. -- Closing Ceremonies; Announcement of top team fundraiser; Banner on campsite awards; $100 to one registered Relayer who is present and has spent the night.
Cancer never sleeps
The Fulton County Relay For Life begins on Friday night, May 30, at 6 p.m. and ends Saturday morning May 31 at 6 a.m. at the Salem High School football field. If you are not familiar with the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, you may wonder why these hours -- cancer does not stop for nighttime.
The light and darkness of the day and night parallel the physical effects, emotional and mental state of a cancer patient while undergoing treatment. The Relay begins when the sun is setting. This symbolizes the time that person has been diagnosed as having cancer. The day is getting darker and this represents the cancer patient's state of mind as they feel their life is coming to an end. As the evening goes on it gets cooler and darker, just as the emotion of the cancer patient does.
Around 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. represents the time when the cancer patient starts treatment. The patient becomes exhausted and may be sick, not wanting to go on, and may want to give up. The participants in the Relay have been walking and feel much the same way. They are tired, want to sleep, and maybe even want to go home, but they cannot stop or give up. A team member must be walking at all times. Between the hours of 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. symbolizes the coming of the end of treatment for the cancer patient. Once again they are tired, but they know they will make it.
The sun rising represents the end of treatment for the cancer patient. They see the light at the end of the tunnel and know that life will go on. Morning light brings on a new day full of life and excitement for new beginnings for the cancer patient.
The Relay for Life participants will feel the brightness of the morning and know that the end of the Relay is close at hand. When they leave the Relay they think of the cancer patient leaving their last treatment. The Relay for Life participants are exhausted, tired and may be weak, just as the cancer patient is after treatment.
Remember, there is no finish line until a cure is found for cancer.
Organizers of this year's event in Fulton County remind the community that this is a family event. This year's theme is Finding a Cure Under the Big Top. Most teams will have food and games for the kids, with all the proceeds going toward the event total. "Bring your lawn chairs, come and help us honor and remember those who have or had cancer. Support our relayers who always make our event a success. Hope to see you under the big top," a spokesman said.