A few of his cousins call him as Charles Ray. To his daughters, he is Daddy and to his six grandchildren and great-grandchildren he is Papaw. And almost everyone knows him as “Red” Hazle, but very few know him as a cancer survivor.
As a fair-skinned redhead, Red always had to watch his time in the sun, but in February 1992 he awoke to find a small dab of blood on his pillowcase from a pencil eraser-sized mole behind his ear. At the urging of his wife, Phyllis, he made an appointment with Elizabethtown dermatologist Jeffrey Richardson which led to another appointment with specialist Dr. Robert Zax. The diagnosis was malignant squamous cell carcinoma which is one of two commonly known skin melanomas accounting for about 4 percent of all skin cancers.
Dr. Zax made three attempts to relieve the pain with mohs micrographic surgery. This advanced treatment offered the highest possible cure rate with minimum sacrifice of normal skin tissue. Because of the unusual growth of the cancer best described as fingers wrapped around Red’s parathyroid gland, another specialist, Dr. Kenneth Hodge, was assigned to the patient. Dr. Hodge made numerous photographs of the cancer and sought assistance from the University of Louisville Medical School before Red’s final surgery on April 10 to remove the cancerous root system.
Within two weeks, the surgical area had healed so well that Red was able to begin his 35 radiation treatments at James Graham Brown. He was usually the first patient of the day driving himself to the treatment and arriving at 7 a.m. before his regular fruit market run for the day.
Even today, Red remembers how much support he felt from his doctors and the local community as he underwent his treatments. People anonymously bought his meals at restaurants and professional truck drivers made runs for him at no charge for store products.
Red, who will turn 83 in September, recently celebrated the 17-year anniversary of his surgery. The American Cancer Society calls him cancer-free.