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Huckaby talks with wit, wisdom of battle with cancer in new book

Staff Correspondent

CONYERS -- When Darrell Huckaby was diagnosed with prostate cancer in May 2011, there were few who knew of his condition. But a round of golf with an old friend in Athens convinced the longtime Rockdale County resident that he needed to share the ups and downs of his situation.

"I didn't tell many people when I first got cancer because I didn't want to hear those same old stories -- believe me, there's no good time to get cancer and there's no good kind of cancer to have," said Huckaby, 60, a noted author, Citizen columnist, public speaker and educator.

"I was playing golf with a friend and he said he'd heard I had cancer and asked me why I hadn't written a column about it. When I told him I didn't plan to write about it because it was so personal, he said, 'You're just being selfish.'

"My friend told me if I came up on a huge bolder, would I try to move the rock myself? And I told him, no, I'd ask my friends to help me. And he told me there are a lot of people who want to help me carry this big load and who would like to pray for me.

"So the next week I wrote a column about it and the response was amazing. My email in-box and Facebook page were flooded with messages of encouragement, and I started getting cards and letters and gifts and all sorts of things."

Huckaby, who travels to Houston on a regular basis for treatment of the rare form of cancer he contracted, said the response he received from that column changed his perspective and altered the course of his life.

"I immediately felt uplifted because I found there were so many people who cared that I had cancer. And it's been a year and a half since I wrote that column and I continue to get encouragement, and I know that's helped my mental aspect and my spiritual aspect.

"And this ordeal brought me a lot closer to God; when a doctor tells you he wishes he could give you more hope, you start thinking about what's about to happen. In a lot of ways, it's been a very positive thing for me."

The Porterdale native's battle with cancer is the subject of his 10th book, "Yea Though I Walk," subtitled, "How One Man's Battle With Cancer Helped Him Experience God's Peace."

Huckaby said that the cancer that has spread to his bones is treatable but not curable, and he adds that like all cancer patients, he has good days and bad days. There's little question he hopes for more good days in the near future as he still leads classes at Heritage High School, and he will be on the road to promote his book and the message within.

"When I was feeling my worst and didn't have any get-up-and-go, I recited the Lord's Prayer several times a day to remind me that there was somebody else taking care of me, and it gave me a lot of strength to get through the ordeal," he said.

When he decided to write about his experience, Huckaby said the original tone of the work was humorous but as his condition took a roller-coaster route of good-news, bad-news, he decided to apply another approach.

"I was going to make it a very lighthearted look at my experience with cancer because I thought that the radiation treatments would make me uncomfortable and inconvenienced for a month or so and I'd be right on my way," he said.

"But it turned out to be much more serious than we thought. I did surgery and the cancer had already spread, and I did radiation and that didn't work. It changed the whole complexion of the book, which I originally planned to call 'You Took Out My What?'"

While the book -- which was edited by former Citizen staffer Aimee Jones -- deals with an extremely somber subject, Huckaby couldn't resist the urge to inject some humor within its pages, but he said the primary reason he wrote "Yea" was because he couldn't find any books that reflected his own situation and wanted to share his experiences.

"I really didn't find a book that would share what I was going to feel like and all those different things," said Huckaby, who was recently certified as a Methodist lay minister. "I said from the beginning that I was going to write a book for people who are going through what I'm going through and I'll share completely, openly and honestly my feelings and what happens.

"And as I wrote it, it got way beyond that. People will find humor in it and I hope they'll find inspiration and courage. It's an uplifting story. It's not a morose, woe-is-me story at all. And there's a lot of stuff in there that doesn't have anything to do with cancer."

The book will be released on Friday, and Huckaby will host a book signing from 2 to 6 p.m. Friday at Conyers Pharmacy, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, he'll sign copies at Evans Produce. He also plans to maintain his busy schedule of public speaking dates.

"I just like to tell stories," he said. "A lot of churches have invited me to tell the story about my battle with cancer and I hope to do that a lot. Wherever I'm taken is wherever I'll go."

Readers can also purchase Huckaby's latest book (as well as his other nine books) from his website, www.darrellhuckaby.net.

Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens.