RAHWAY, NJ - Perhaps the most valuable gift anyone can hope to give or receive is the gift of a cherished memory. It is a gift which can keep the joys, the triumphs, the loves, and the losses of one’s life forever alive in one’s heart and can underscore the story of one’s journey through life.  How could Daphne Lee, Rahway High School graduate of 2009 and member of “Rahway’s Own”, have known that she would be the bearer of one such gift on her recent visit to speak to students at the high school.

While still a student at RHS, Daphne saw many graduates return to the high school to share stories of their lives and careers. It was then that she decided that “giving back was an opportunity I wanted to do myself as well.” Since her graduation, Daphne herself has toured 60 cities as a dancer with the famed Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s Second company, Ailey II, has been awarded the title of Miss Black New Jersey USA, and is now hopeful for garnering the title of Miss Black USA, a title which includes a scholarship for her to continue her graduate studies. However, it was not sharing her career triumphs and accomplishments which brought her back. Hers was a motivation much more heartfelt and close to home.

In January 2016, Daphne received the devastating news that her mother, Jay Skeete-Lee, had been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a chronic and progressive disease which transforms healthy infection-fighting cells into malignant (cancerous) myeloma cells.  Once those cells begin to grow in bone marrow, the disease progresses and can lead to kidney damage, bone pain and a host of other serious problems.  Daphne vowed to learn as much as she could, through research, about this disease and has remained by her mother’s side throughout her treatment, continually providing positive, strengthening support.

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Capitalizing on the opportunity to reach a much broader audience afforded through her involvement in the Miss Black USA Pageant, Daphne has become a spokesperson for Multiple Myeloma Awareness in her effort to raise the public’s knowledge of this particular cancer and its devastating effects.  It was with this intent that she came to speak to RHS students while emphasizing the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and an equally healthy lifestyle.

Daphne’s message was especially moving for sophomore Jourdyn Mitchell who found it “inspirational and informative.”  Jourdyn shared that, “My grandmother passed away 5 years ago from the same cancer.  This brought back so many memories for me.”  She expressed that she wished “to thank her for that” and that it was “nice to see how well her Mom was doing.”  This was indeed a gift treasured by both giver and receiver.

As of this writing, Ms. Skeete-Lee is feeling well, remaining strong and optimistic, and will be undergoing additional stem cell procedures in the upcoming month.  May the new year bring her continued success as she valiantly battles this foe head on along with the knowledge that she, too, is one of Rahway’s Own.