BY M. JUNAID ALAM
“Obviously, I thought my world would crumble and fall apart –which it did for a while,” she said.Buckner underwent a heavy battery of treatment: chemotherapy, transfusions, radiation and all their attendant side effects. She also had a lung removed.Today, however, Buckner is not just a cancer survivor but a co-sponsor of the area's first American Cancer Society Relay for Life Event, to be held in May.”If I can help others with cancer, then my cancer will have meaning,” Buckner said of her decision to take on the challenge.About 18 months after her diagnosis, Buckner said she was approached by a neighbor and American Cancer Society worker, Erica Siegel, about participating in the relay.”She asked if I wanted to be involved, and I said, 'OK.' And then she asked, 'Well, how involved do you want to be?'” Buckner recalled with laughter.The May 31 event, to be held at Queens County Farm Museum, will be the first ever in Little Neck or Floral Park, Buckner said.The relay will continue throughout the entire night, with teams of 10 to 15 people taking turns on a makeshift track. Participants will also illuminate the track in memory of cancer victims. Buckner's candle will be lit in honor of her late father.”The premise of the event is that cancer doesn't sleep, so neither will we,” Buckner explained.With her best friend and caretaker Fran Grossman co-sponsoring the relay and her daughter heading up its youth division, Buckner said she feels loved and supported.She hopes participants will raise $20,000 for the American Cancer Society before the event. Each person who signs up for the event will pay a $10 fee and will be asked to raise $100 from others through fund-raising drives.”It's a little daunting, but it's also made me feel empowered,” Buckner said of the goal.In her struggle against cancer, she has not always felt that way. Employed in the medical field as an office manager prior to her diagnosis, Buckner said her co-workers were very supportive at first. After a recurrence, however, the company slashed her salary and “suddenly decided they didn't need an office manager anymore.””It made me feel terrified,” said the single mother of two children. “I was wondering how I was going to pay for my medication. I was devastated.”Now, she works at an MRI center and is intent on helping other cancer patients and survivors cope with their own experiences.The relay, Buckner said, will encourage people to share their stories and come together rather than retreat into despair.”Absolutely, to tell your story is to empower yourself, to make sure you don't withdraw.” she said, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a positive outlook.”I hope I have a long life, but I'm not waiting around to live it.”To join the effort, call Karen Buckner at 516-457-2242 or Fran Grossman at 516-457-2295, or e-mail eventchairRFLqueensfarm@gmail.com. Reach reporter M. Junaid Alam by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.