“We were so appreciative of all the good things they did for us,” Cyrus said. “There are so many cancer groups, but we decided to make UNC our central charity for cancer.”
Helping others was a constant theme in the King household. Cyrus and Carolyn met in the summer of 1942 at a YMCA/YWCA conference and together took on a number of causes to make the world a better place—especially for women, minorities, children and people with disabilities.
Cancer was added to the King’s long list of causes in 2005 following Carolyn’s diagnosis. Cyrus was particularly grateful for Carolyn’s surgeon. “We had no idea the surgery was going to be as complicated as it was and her surgeon was wonderful,” Cyrus remembers. “She was just a love.”
Due to the unforeseen complications with surgery, Carolyn had a colostomy and as a result had to deal with an appliance for the rest of her life. “She did it all without complaining—I was so amazed at her ability to do that,” Cyrus said.
When Carolyn’s cancer grew into her colon, she continued to receive treatments from Dr. Wesley Fowler at UNC Lineberger and later Dr. Jeffrey Crane at Rex Cancer Center. Even in the midst of chemo treatments, Carolyn maintained a steadfast commitment to others.
“One of my last conversations with Carolyn involved her being so thankful for all the health care she was getting,” said longtime neighbor and friend Sandy Irving. “She commented it was not ‘fair’ that many others did not receive this kind of care. Her concern was always for the other person. We made a pledge that we would work so that everyone would have the excellent health care she was receiving.”
In 2012, Carolyn was honored posthumously for the NC Women United Anne Mackie Award recognizing a lifetime contribution to advocacy on behalf of women. Cyrus continues to give annually to UNC Lineberger in Carolyn’s memory.
“We have had nothing but good experiences at UNC. I’m happy to give and only wish I could do more.”