Battle Behind the Ball: Man shares his cancer story ahead of Cattle Baron’s Ball

Battle Behind the Ball: Man shares his cancer story ahead of Cattle Baron’s Ball

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Cattle Baron’s Ball is one of the largest fundraisers for the American Cancer society in the Richmond area.

Last year the event raised $920,000; this year the goal is $1 million. But it’s the personal stories of survival that really highlights the importance of cancer research.

This year's keynote speaker is a man who supported the event for years, now he find himself fighting cancer himself.

"This time last year I was 25 and having a lot of fun at the Cattle Baron’s Ball, dancing and not 6 months later l was diagnosed and started chemotherapy,” said Thomas Poulos, who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “It didn’t matter that I was healthy and exercised, it happened and it does happen. It makes you realize that cancer has no prejudice.”

Thomas is the son of George and Susan Poulos - the Chairs of last year’s event.

In years past, he’s helped out behind the scenes, but now his journey brings him front and center - as this year’s keynote speaker sharing his story.

“I’ve got a day where I go in for treatment, I’ve got a day where I feel pretty bad for a little while and then my body is able to recover pretty quickly and I think that’s because of the treatment, that’s because of the research and the data and people’s donations to the American Cancer Society,” said Poulos.

Dr. Mary Helen Hackney is a medical oncologist at VCU Massey Cancer Center - one of the leading cancer research facilities in the country.

“The one thing about Lymphoma is, there’s no way we can predict who’s going to get it," Dr. Hackney said. "One of the joys is that we’ve seen more cancer survivors across the board, overall cancer deaths are declining, and we see more people living well or living longer even after a diagnosis.”

But the fight continues.

One in two men and one out of three women will develop cancer in their lifetime. Even though early screenings have significantly reduced the risk of colorectal, breast, prostate and cervical cancers.

“As we gain more knowledge from learning about these new drugs and new techniques, then we will make a difference," said Dr. Hackney.

New treatments wouldn’t be possible without research, and the research depends on donations. Which is why events like the Cattle Baron’s Ball are so important - to get the money that could sav the lives of people like Poulos.

“I’ve been able to maintain relative normality," said Poulos. "I’ve been able to go to work when I feel good. I’ve been able to exercise when I feel good and I don’t think that would be possible 10-15 years ago.”

Thomas is walking a road alongside millions of Americans, battling some form of cancer. A diagnosis that’s not a one-size-fits-all.

It will require decades of research and millions of more dollars - through donations from all of us who care.

“I’ll look at Cattle Baron’s differently,” said Poulos. "I loved helping out, but until it hits you like this, it starts to mean something differently.”

Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.