Leader Blues

Monday, May 04, 2009

TOP STORY >> Mayoral candidate, cancer survivor tells his story

By JONATHAN FELDMAN
Leader staff writer

Dozens of cancer survivors gathered at Jacksonville High School’s Jan Crow Stadium last weekend to participate in the city’s annual American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

One of those survivors stood out in the crowd: Jacksonville mayoral candidate Randy “Doc” Rhodd, also known as the motorcycle minister.

Rhodd was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003. On May 15, he will mark his sixth year of living cancer-free.

“I was scared because cancer runs in my family. My aunt died of cancer,” Rhodd said. His father died of cancer just last year, and his sister is now undergoing treatment for breast cancer. “It’s been a big mess for my family,” he said.

Before his father died, he told Rhodd that “he wouldn’t go down without a fight because you kids have always been my priority.” His father wanted to see his 17 grandchildren grow up.

That is the attitude that inspired Rhodd to put up his own fight against cancer, although not immediately.

“I put off treatment,” Rhodd said. He was nervous about the treatment process, which was a combination of chemotherapy and surgery at Baptist Hospital in North Little Rock and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

But he summoned the courage to start battling the disease because, like his father, he wanted to see his grandchildren grow up.

“My kids and grandkids give me hope and inspiration,” he said. He spent two weeks in the hospital after his surgery and he’s been busy ever since.

Rhodd is the head of Family Motorcycle Ministries, a church and charity organization based in Jacksonville. The group is collecting canned goods for 450 needy families in Jacksonville alone.

“A lot of kids here go to bed hungry and go to school on an empty stomach and that’s a tragedy,” he said.

Rhodd said that when you experience a serious illness like cancer, “you have a whole different perspective, a whole new outlook on life.”

That new way of seeing things has helped to shape his views of politics and society. It may also be the reason Rhodd chose to run for mayor.

Keeping the North Metro Medical Center and its neighboring medical clinic intact is at the top of his campaign platform.

“We need to make an agreement to keep them here,” he said, referring to the doctors who said they would leave Jacksonville if their office rents increased too much.

Rhodd also says a major reason for running is the closing of the Graham Road railroad crossing. He says Sunnyside residents feel isolated from the rest of the city.

“We need to let these people know that we aren’t cutting them off. That’s the heart of our history and our city,” the candidate said.

“Our economy here is horrid. We need to bring companies, we need jobs, we need to keep our money local,” he insisted.

Rhodd is a nontraditional candidate with five challengers who are more established in Jacksonville politics. He says that is why his campaign has gained so much momentum and appeal among voters.

He is proud of the support that he has received from residents.

If he doesn’t win, he plans to remain active in the community and continue his fight to improve the city.

“I am considering a run on the independent ticket for governor,” because he owes it to his supporters, he said.

He says it has been an honor to run in this race and to participate in the Relay for Life.

“This race has showed me that I have the strength and courage to bring change to Jacksonville,” he said. That mindset helped him to win his battle against colon cancer, and it might just help him win his goal to become mayor of Jacksonville.