For Allison Reeves, cancer is not just a disease that has taken several of her family members over the years; it’s a calling that has led her to her career.
Reeves lost her father, a sister-in-law and two of her aunts to various forms of cancer.
“I can remember a time when I didn’t think cancer would ever affect my family,” Reeves said. “I heard about it, and I knew it was out there, but it had never hit home. But it seemed like once it did it was affecting everyone. I believe that’s why I’m where I’m at today. We have to find a cure.”
Reeves was raised in Surry County near Jot Em Down. She grew up on a tobacco farm, an ironic fact now that she spends her days helping in the battle against cancer.
“Even though I’m totally against tobacco, I think everyone should have to do work in a tobacco field at some time in their life, because it’s a very hard job,” Reeves said.
Reeves attended Surry Central High School and fell in love shortly out of high school. After a few years of dating she married her husband, who she’s been married to for 27 years. Her husband was a lifelong resident of Yadkin County, so Reeves joined him in the county. The couple has one son.
“I went back to school while my son was a baby and became a certified medical assistant,” Reeves said. “I was drawn to that career because I’ve always been geared toward service type work, and medicine is a service field.”
Reeves said that she spent many years working as a medical assistant. But as times changed, so did her field. She saw a change in the way patients were treated and didn’t feel the same passion for it as she once had.
“I loved medicine,” Reeves said. “But medicine as we’ve all seen has become a business. It’s still a service, but it very much feels like a business these days.”
During her last years in the medical field Reeves said that she had put on some extra pounds and grew unhappy with her body. So she joined Weight Watchers to help her lose the weight. Her significant weight loss while she was on the program inspired her.
Reeves realized that there were other people out there who had similar stories, and she wanted to help them achieve the same goals she had. So she took a job as a leader with Weight Watchers for six years.
“I held the Weight Watchers meetings, and I worked in Elkin, Yadkin and Wilkes Counties,” Reeves said. “That was a job where you always went home feeling good about what you did. But when the economy took a turn it hurt us tremendously, especially in the rural areas.”
From there Reeves started looking for the next plan in her life. Her father had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and after a long stretch of difficulties and treatment he lost his battle in January 2010.
The day after he died, Reeves was looking through the local paper when she saw a job listing for the American Cancer Society. It caught her eye, but after watching her father lose his battle she decided against applying. After several months of various job possibilities that didn’t work out, she picked up the paper once more.
“There was a posting, and it was the same job that I saw a few months before,” Reeves said. “I decided that the job was available again so maybe it was a sign for me to apply. So I did and the rest of that is history.”
Reeves accepted the position as a community manager. She had been a volunteer with Relay For Life in Elkin for 12 years before taking the position, so she had a strong appreciation for the work of the organization.
“I knew what the American Cancer Society did, but I did not understand the whole concept,” Reeves said. “When I took the position I realized that there were so many more areas to the American Cancer Society.”
Reeves said that the most important part of her job is reaching out to patients and letting them know that the organization is there for them and that there are services available in their county.
When Reeves isn’t dedicating her time to others she likes to cut herself off from the world and enjoy some silence. She says she likes to travel to the mountains, turn off her computer and phone and be inaccessible for a few days.
“Nobody is calling me and nobody is dropping by, and we can just take it easy for a few days,” Reeves said.
When she’s not hiding away, Reeves and her husband like to watch their son coach football and basketball. Their son is a high school biology teacher in Stokes County, and he serves as the assistant coach and JV girl’s basketball coach.
Reeves said that she has also spent time serving on mission trips to West Africa, which have had a profound effect on her life.
“Everybody around me was not excited about me going on this trip because they thought it would be a dangerous trip. … But it was something that I needed to do and felt led to do,” Reeves said. “That trip totally changed me and how I think about things. It put everything in perspective for me.”
Reeves said that ever since she came back from her trip she has wanted to go back.
“I feel like I have a family there, because we were embraced just like we were their family,” Reeves said. “If we all took a week or two out of lives to go share with people who have so much less than us, what a difference we would make in the world.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.