By Elizabeth Perry
When Anthony Richards took the microphone during a recent Coraopolis council meeting to talk about his struggles with cancer and a local support group he serves as chaplain for, his voice was hoarse.
Richards had battled both tongue and vocal cord cancers.
“Three doctors that don’t even know each other said I should be dead right now,” Richards said.
Richards credited God for his sense of acceptance about the struggles he’s gone through and
urged people who were going through similar challenges to seek out the support they needed as he did with the Carol Faulkner Williams Cancer Support Group.
The support group offers people in Coraopolis with the disease an opportunity to connect. Like Richards, leaders within the organization have been personally touched by cancer, either through having the disease themselves or caring for loved ones.
Their support group is unique to the borough of Coraopolis.
“I went through this, I had to go to the city to get help, and some people can’t do that,” said Organization President Kaneesha Neely. A longtime resident of Coraopolis, Neely was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. She will be five years in remission in June.
Neely didn’t want to see people suffering alone, which is how she came to lead the group.
“We’re very passionate about helping everyone,” Neely said.
Carol Faulkner Williams started the organization in 2019, under the original name the Coraopolis Cancer Support group. Faulkner Williams was diagnosed with cancer in 2010.
After her death in January 2022, the surviving members renamed the group in her honor. She was a caregiver to both her brothers, who were also diagnosed with cancer. Over the years she felt a strong call to help those impacted by the disease.
“Carol understood the toll this disease took on patients and caregivers because over the years she took on both of those roles,” said Dana Watkins, treasurer.
The support group’s second annual fundraiser, The Gospel Explosion will be held Aug. 19 at Shelley Y. Jones Memorial Recreational Park.
The late Jones was the first Black woman to serve on the Coraopolis Borough Council.
Watkins' husband, Charles, has cancer. The couple say they have tried to remain positive throughout his illness.
“Thank God for my wife, and my two children and my four grandchildren,” he said.
Mr. Watkins said through the support of his family, including his sister, he hoped to beat the disease, which is why support was critical for those in need.
Paulette Stephens, a parliamentarian for the organization, also addressed the council Feb. 8.
Stephens lost her daughter and husband to the disease.
Her daughter used to say, “I have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me.”
“Somebody needs to be with these patients when they go through chemotherapy,” she said.
Through CFW Cancer Support Group, patients and their families could better navigate insurance and their diagnoses while being provided with a support team, Stephens said.
“Please give us a call. Don’t be too proud to reach out.”
The organization holds bi-monthly Sunday meetings at 4 p.m. in the Coraopolis Youth Creations HUB, 912 4th Ave., Coraopolis. The next scheduled meeting is March 19.
For more information, (412) 324-2218.