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Ivy Foster suffered night sweats and high fevers.
Exploratory surgery detected the culprit: cancer --- Hodgkin's lymphoma in the abdomen.
"I had just moved into a new house," Foster recalled Sunday, "and the payments were triple what I'd been paying. I had two babies and two older kids. I was worried how I was going to make it."
Ten years later, Foster still has that house in Coweta County. More important, the 55-year-old retiree is still alive, a cancer survivor who continues to beat the odds.
On Sunday, Foster attended a celebration at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth for folks like him as well as for their supporters.
It was the 13th annual Magic of Life Celebration, a cancer survivors' party hosted by the Georgia Cancer Foundation.
The party, which was attended by more than 3,000 cancer survivors, family members and supporters, is billed as one of the largest events of its kind in the South.
"This is a day to step back and to celebrate that you did get through it," said Chris Lybeer, a 13-year cancer survivor who leads the Dunwoody-based foundation dedicated to cancer care.
"We want this to be an inspiration for someone going through treatment, for them to see that people really can survive cancer."
This year, nearly 32,000 Georgians will hear the words: "You have cancer." The good news is that the survival rate has risen, from 50 percent in 1999 to a current rate of 60 percent, said Dr. Bruce A. Feinberg, president and CEO of Georgia Cancer Specialists, a private oncology-hematology practice.
"Eighty percent of the cancer in children is cured," he said. "But that has not been matched in adults, where the cure rate is closer to 55 percent."
Still, the most common forms of cancer --- lung, breast, prostate and colon --- can be cured "if the disease is caught early," said Feinberg, who credited the Georgia Cancer Foundation for making community outreach its mission.
Many of the thousands who attended Sunday's party were bused in. Nearly 1,000 of them were cancer survivors like Foster, the Newnan man who attends the annual event because "it gives me hope."
Foster's advice for those struck with the disease: "Make sure you do what the doctor tells you to do."
"Have a positive outlook on life and believe in the heavenly Father," he said. "I put everything in the Lord's hands, and here I am. He will pull you through."
Copyright 2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution