If cancer were a person, it would be the most unwelcome and unpleasant house guest anyone could ever imagine. It’s not a person, but I venture a guess that not a person among you reading this now has not been touched by cancer in some way.
Perhaps you have it now. Perhaps a family member, friend, co-worker or acquaintance is battling the disease right now. Even more scary is that perhaps you, a family member, friend, co-worker or acquaintance has cancer now, yet to be discovered.
Cancer has barged into my family’s household way too many times. Were there a guestbook to sign, cancer would occupy far more spaces than a welcome guest. It runs on both sides of my parentage. Mother was consumed by Stage 4 bone cancer six years ago and Dad? Well, after his lengthy battle between December 1977 and August 1978, we never did an autopsy to learn which particular type of cancer claimed him at 52 years young. Last fall, a cousin succumbed to cancer. Also age 52. A grandmother, a cousin and a host of others on my mother’s side were all taken by one form of cancer or another.
I remember realizing in my 20s I’d attended more funerals than weddings, and most were because of cancer’s scourge. I also remember as a young child thinking children only had one set of grandparents because Dad’s parents had both died before I was even born. His mother also was in her 50s when cancer took her life. I never really knew what took his father’s life as Dad’s father was long estranged from the family.

AND SO WHAT IS THE POINT of this seemingly less than uplifting column on a Sunday morning? Simple. But complex. Take a few moments, as that’s probably all you’ll really need, and think about those you know or have known who have or had cancer. Start taking count. Startling, isn’t it? Despite all the millions of dollars that have been poured into research, we have no cure. No real cure, that is. Oh sure, significant strides have been made in the battle. Fortunately, testing has improved. Early diagnosis has led to millions of lives being saved with more effective treatment. That, certainly, is good and to be celebrated. All of those people you tallied up in your mind or on a sheet of paper? Some you might have taken care of, prepared meals for, prayed for and more. Others you prayed for, sent cards and offered whatever you could. Still others are more distant, but you care nonetheless. After all, you have seen and you know what cancer does to a person, and to a family.
You cannot help everyone, even though sometimes you’d like to. You cannot save everyone, even though you and the oncologists who treat them would like to. But you do, and can do, whatever you can. That’s why I’m devoting this column to many cancer patients I know and to one in particular -- Keith Ridgeway. Actually, I don’t know Keith all that well. He lives in Belle Meade, a neighborhood where we lived when we first arrived in Greenwood. His son, Keller, and my daughter, Katie, were pals in the fifth grade. Keith is the owner and operator of Ridgeway Appraisal Associates and a volunteer with Greenwood County Station 75 Volunteer Fire Department. If you don’t know him personally, chances are you’ve seen him driving his big black Hummer with the decals on the back window.

FAMILY AND FRIENDS HAVE rallied around Keith in his battle with Stage 4 brain cancer. They call themselves “Team Keith” and they’ve organized a benefit for him 11 a.m.-10 p.m. June 7 at the A&W Warehouse, which is behind the Ninety Six Parks and Rec Complex along Duke Street. Keith’s undergoing treatments at Self Regional and Duke University.
It’s a family event, as Keith’s a family guy. He’s often been spotted wherever son Keller is performing locally, be it T.W. Boons, Howard’s, Buffalo Grill.
There will be fire safety training for the kids, in a training house. Barbecue plates will be sold at $8 apiece and a few items from the National Wild Turkey Federation will be raffled, including a shotgun, framed prints and a table-and-chairs set.
Cancer is not a welcome house guest in any home, but rest assured, whether you know Keith and his family well or not at all, your support and your presence will be most welcome.

Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 864-943-2522; email rwhiting@indexjournal.com, or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.