Every year, thousands of Americans hear what are likely the three most hated words in the English language: “You have cancer.”
Due to modern technology and years of research, the disease is more treatable than it was in the past; however, it still not only affects the patient, it affects the entire family as they see their loved one robbed of their health and dignity and drained of their emotions and finances.
This week the Sun visited with Auther Blaylock, a Waxahachie icon who was recently diagnosed with the disease. For 20 years, Blaylock has been that friendly greeter at Walmart who makes you feel right at home. His friendly manner and bright light have touched the hearts of hundreds of shoppers and employees, and helped give him the nickname of “Mr. Walmart.”
Blaylock was knocked for a loop when he was recently diagnosed with lymphoma.
“Here I was, at 85 years old and not taking any kind of medication and all of a sudden this thing hits me,” he said. “I’ve had two surgeries and I now have to use a walker. It is very devastating.”
Granddaughter Roxanne Barnett and her husband came from Colorado to help when her grandfather was admitted to the hospital during a visit to the emergency room Jan. 15.
“In November, he was still working at a Walmart,” she said. “He fell a couple of times at work in December but continued to work.
“We had noticed a change in him after their wedding anniversary,” she said. “He was tired and was losing weight and my grandmother knew after attending a family wedding that something wasn’t right with him.”
After his admission to the hospital, a biopsy was done with the results learned Jan. 22.
Blaylock is now being treated at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Waxahachie by oncologist Binu S. Nair and, from all reports, has responded well to his first chemotherapy treatment.
A full life
The Sun’s visit with Blaylock wasn’t just about his illness: The long conversation included talk about his life, touching on one topic then another. His is a delightful way of telling his stories – and a reminder of the days when children would sit at an elder’s feet and listen intently to what was shared.
As he explained the unusual spelling of his first name, Blaylock chuckled as he remembered that his four siblings were named after movie stars Robert Young, Shirley Temple, Clara Bow and William Conrad.
“My name was all my mom’s doing,” he said. “She named me after someone named Luther who was involved in a love triangle. It was a true story.”
Blaylock graduated from Irving High School in 1953 and went to work for the city of Dallas’ street department, serving as district supervisor over the Love Field area before retiring in 1984.
During his career, he struck up a friendship with Lamar Hunt, owner of the former Dallas Texans, and James Ling, who was connected to what is known as LTV.
His career with the city of Dallas saw one interruption – when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1956. He served for two years as a rifleman and was stationed in Germany.
One memory Blaylock recalled from his time in the Army at Fort Carson, Colorado, that he shared with the Sun brought a smile to his face. “I saluted a female major and said, ‘Yes, ma’am,’ and she said not to call her ‘ma’am,’ that I must say, ‘Yes, sir.’ Army regulations state that is how you address an officer,” he said.
Blaylock would serve as a trainer for the Air National Guard at the Dallas Naval Air Station – and some of the trainees he instructed included former Dallas Cowboys Walt Garrison and Cliff Harris, among others. He recalls also having the opportunity to speak with then Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry.
Blaylock and his wife Joyce have been married for 60 years and raised four children: sons Aubrey Blaylock and Coby Blaylock and daughters Sonya Compton and Becky Martinez Breaux.
Asked about the couple’s successful long marriage and what made it that way, Blaylock smiled and said, “We just take one day at a time.”
The love and admiration he has for his wife is evident as he describes her: “She is a tax expert, a design engineer, a remodel expert, a Bible scholar, a great cook and a great wife, mother and grandmother.”
Blaylock said he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour on April 15, 1958. He recalls a famed New Orleans evangelist, Bob Harrington, known as the chaplain of Bourbon Street, who has always said his Christian birth was April 15, 1958.
“I beat him by a few hours when I accepted Christ into my life,” Blaylock said.
A firm believer in the Bible, Blaylock has a positive attitude about his illness.
“There are verses in the Bible that protect me,” he said. “Psalm 91 assures me protection in times of hardship. John 3:16 assures and amplifies my salvation. Romans 8 26-28 works for our greater good and helps in our weakness. Isaiah 53:5 shows how we are healed of our sins by Jesus. Deuteronomy 8 1-14 shows our blessings through Jesus.”
The Blaylocks have been active members of Covenant Life Church in Waxahachie for about eight years and Joyce holds a Bible study in her home Tuesday mornings.
Church pastor, Jonathan Bell, spoke fondly of Auther Blaylock to the Sun.
“Every city has iconic people who represent that city and Auther Blaylock is one of those people in our city,” Bell said. “I recently took him to Walmart to get some medical supplies he needed. As I wheeled him around the store in his wheelchair, people were so happy to see him. Employees and shoppers alike showed him a lot of love.”
GoFundMe account established
Barnett has set up a GoFundMe account on behalf of her grandfather to help with the high cost of home health care. As of early Friday morning, more than $6,800 had been donated toward the $10,000 goal. Any unused money from the fund will be donated for cancer treatment, she said.
Those wishing to help the Blaylock family during this time are asked to visit the gofundme.com website, where they can type “Auther Blaylock” into the search box to bring up the specific page to make a donation. The direct link to the page is https://www.gofundme.com/help-auther-blaylock-quotmr-walmartquot-beat-cancer