Originally created 05/20/00

Relay likely will be last for woman



ATHENS, Ga. - Diane Burdette and her daughter, recent University of Georgia graduate Jennifer Young, were looking forward to a lap around the university track at Friday night's Relay For Life.

Ms. Burdette, though, begins to cry when she says it probably will be her last time at the event, an annual American Cancer Society fund-raiser.

She was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in 1997. After three years of surgeries, chemotherapy and other treatment, she was told in March she probably will die within a year.

"I feel like I won't be healed here on Earth, but I'll be healthy in heaven. There's no cancer up there," Ms. Burdette, 45, said Thursday on the porch of her Winterville home. "I don't pray that I survive, only that my children won't have to suffer this disease."

Ms. Young had planned to attend graduate school in the fall after earning her bachelor's degree in communication sciences and disorders. She has decided to delay her plans until 2001, however, to stay home and care for her mother, who said she's "feeling pretty decent these days," thanks in part to the use of oxygen to help her damaged lungs.

Both mother and daughter seem very much at peace about Ms. Burdette's diagnosis and say it's in large part because of their faith and the support of community groups and friends. In fact, both said Ms. Burdette's "ugly" divorce last year has been harder in certain ways than her cancer.

"It's just become part of our lives, so I really don't think about it at all," Ms. Young, 22, said. "I know when she dies it will be sad, but I'll be happy for her because she'll be in a better place."

It was never a question that Ms. Young would put off school to be with her mother, she said, "because I know she'd do exactly the same thing for me."

"I've never been afraid of people who are sick or gawked at people in wheelchairs or anything like that," Ms. Young said. "We just roll with whatever comes our way."

Ms. Burdette had been working at an insurance company until her last surgery in March, and Ms. Young will continue working there part time. She also will continue to volunteer with the speech therapists at St. Mary's Hospital.

"I like to stay busy. The more you have to do, then you're that much more likely to get everything done," Ms. Young said.

Meanwhile, her mother is planning for a future she knows she won't be around for. She and Ms. Young already have taken care of some funeral plans, and Ms. Burdette has been working on cookbooks for Ms. Young and her other child, 19-year-old Matt.

"I want to leave Jennifer as little to worry about as possible," Ms. Burdette said. "I just feel so blessed we have each other."

She's also knitting afghans for the first child of each of her children.

"I don't think I'll be around to hold my grandchildren, but this is something I can give them," she said.

"I feel like I won't be healed here on Earth, but I'll be healthy in heaven. There's no cancer up there. I don't pray that I survive, only that my children won't have to suffer this disease."- Cancer patient Diane Burdette, 45, who was told she likely has only a year to live