Lincoln County News
August 20, 1998

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

July 31, 1998: Christy and I are receiving a warm welcome at the Vettes on the Rockies Show. Jim, the event coordinator, has arranged for an excellent booth space inside the large tent where all the show activities are taking place. I also park my car in a prime display space located just outside the tent entrance. Our booth has been busy and donations are going well. In fact, we have sold out all of our promotional models, and all but one of our trinket box donation incentives. For the first time in months, I have some space in my trunk.

Christy and I have been "adopted" by members of the Sioux Falls Corvette Club tonight. We are joining Dan and Jan, and other club members for dinner. The Sioux Falls Club hosted the wonderful Black Hills Corvette Classic we attended in South Dakota in mid-July.

Aug. 1, 1998: Tonight, I gave at ten-minute speech at the awards ceremony. Following the speech, many cancer survivors and family members stopped by my booth to share their experiences and thank me for doing this tour. Fred, an executive from Chevrolet Motor Division, and a prostate cancer survivor, comes over to talk. He introduces me to his wife who is a breast cancer survivor. We discuss our common experiences and treatments. Fred wanted to make sure I was receiving the best and latest in medical care. He and his wife have an excellent team of doctors.

I also meet Jerry who tells me about his 26-year-old son who successfully battled carcinoid cancer. His son is now very active in American Cancer Society activities. Another young man also comes up and tells me he too is a cancer survivor. This goes to show you that cancer knows no age boundaries. Young and old are affected by this disease.

Tonight, I take advantage of the large Corvette audience of close to 500 people. I am having some problems with my car. Yesterday, Christy and I noticed a strange burning smell emanating from underneath my car. It smelled metallic or synthetic and may have been coming from the back or rear wheel area. I am not much of a mechanic, but I would guess it is a wheel or brake problem. I have run a thorough check of my dashboard computer gages. All have normal readings. With my car's sophisticated, on-board computer, any problems are signaled by warning bells and lighted symbols. I am not seeing any of these.

I describe my car problems to Jim and he returns with one of the event's guest celebrities, Dave Hill, the chief engineer for Chevrolet Corvette Motor Division! Talk about going right to the top for professional Corvette expertise! Dave and Steve, a representative from Purify Chevrolet, the dealership sponsor for the show, climb into my car. They immediately get to work and run a full check of the computer codes. Steve writes down all the codes and says he will take these back to the dealership on Monday. The service department can then run a check on their diagnostic machines. Dave and Steve also crawl under my car to see if they can determine the source of the odor. They can find nothing.

I tell Dave that tomorrow I have to drive Christy to the Denver airport, about 80 miles away. He assures me that my car will be O.K. to do that.

Meanwhile, I have taken the opportunity to photograph Dave Hill, Corvette's chief engineer, sitting in my car and working on it. Ben and my Corvette friends back at home will not believe this without photographic proof. Ben is already green with envy that here I am meeting the top people in the Corvette world at this event. Earlier tonight, I met and spoke to John Cafaro, the designer of the new Corvette. I also met James, the author of "All Corvettes Are Red". This book is Ben's bible. I told James that Ben is on his fourth reading of his book.

I also had all of these celebrities autograph my Corvettes Conquer Cancer tour banner that I put up at each show. Hopefully, Ben will have the chance to meet some of these folks at one of our events back East.

Aug. 2, 1998: Today is airport day. Christy's flight out of Denver is on time. It was a tearful parting for me. I have enjoyed spending time alone with my daughter. Though she probably won't admit it, she has gotten into driving my Corvette. She said that she will have to readjust to the passing power of her Saturn when she gets back home.

I am hanging out in the huge Denver International Airport today, waiting for my sister Peg's flight to arrive. I use the time to write notes, postcards, and my journal. While changing concourses, I hop onto the train shuttle to Peg's gate. As I step on board, a man stops me and asks if I am the person who is doing the cross-country tour to raise funds for cancer control. Have I suddenly become a national celebrity, I wonder? Then, I realize that I have my tour jacket on. He must have seen the lettering.

I ask how he heard about my tour. He said he read about it in the New York Times, he thinks! He is a financial consultant in Florida. He and his wife, who is a lawyer, are vacationing in the Denver area. He tells me that cancer research has become a hobby for him. His father is a lung cancer patient and he has spent many hours researching doctors and treatments. He tells me about a natural drug treatment that has helped his dad, and gives me his business card and a note about this special drug.

During my trip, I have had many chance encounters with folks who want to offer their help and assistance.

Peg's plane arrives on time. It's great to see her. I am taking a little vacation these next two weeks. No official shows or appearances are planned. I need this break to rest up for what will be a very hectic travel and show schedule beginning in mid- August. My back and rib area have been giving me significant pain. I plan to rest and let Peg drive.

Peg and I spend the night in Ft. Lupton, outside of Denver. We will take my car to Purifoy Chevrolet tomorrow to be checked. We find a local steakhouse for dinner. We also take photographs of some amusing signs in town. One was a sign that said "pied pipper" karaoke. Peg and I wanted to find out what a "pipper" was, but the place was closed.

Aug. 3, 1998: Peg and I arrive at the car dealership early in the morning. Steve is there to greet us and take us back to the service department. The service manager says he will put his best Corvette service man, Frog, on the job.

About a half hour later, Steve returns and asks us to come out to the service bay where Frog has my car on a lift. Frog says that he thinks he's found the source of the burning odor. Apparently, a gooey black substance like road tar is all over the exhaust pipes under my car. I remember that Christy and I drove through a road construction area a few days ago where they were tarring the road and filling the road cracks with a gluey tar substance. There was no way we could avoid driving through it.

Frog manages to scrape off most of the tarry mess. He has also checked all the computer codes and they are fine. The wheels are fine, though the brake rotors could stand to be turned to eliminate a slight pulsing. Frog says it is not serious, just an annoyance. I will have this taken care of when we get home. Frog also tops off the oil.

It is 10:30 a.m. and we're ready to roll. Before we leave, we thank Frog and Steve. Rollie, the owner of Purifoy's, comes out to meet us. Rollie is unloading a pretty yellow, new GT4 Corvette off of a trailer. Peg gets photos of this special racing Corvette that sells for around $100,000. We didn't dare ask to take it for a test drive.

Aug. 4, 1998: Peg and I are in Durango, Col., today. Durango is a quaint western-style town. We go downtown to Chelsea's Bar and Grill for dinner. After a couple of Margaritas and dinner, we decide to stay for the night's entertainment. It is a week night, so the entertainment consists of a solo performer who is playing and singing country and rock tunes with back-up from a synthesizer.

The entertainer needs to warm up the small week-night audience. He looks out and sees Peg and I seated at our table with our afternoon shopping purchases in bags piled up in the chair next to us. He yells to me, "Hey, lady! What's in the sack?" I don't respond. I don't know what he is talking about. He repeats it louder and then I suddenly realize he is asking what is in the "bag". I forgot that Westerners call grocery and shopping bags, "sacks". I tell him that I have chili pepper Christmas lights in the bag. He asks if I will bring them up on stage. I hand him the box. He takes them out and plugs them into his amplifier. The stage is now back-lit with red chili pepper lights.

A few minutes later, after unsuccessfully convincing bar patrons to come up on stage to sing with him, the entertainer calls to me and says that he bets the chili pepper lady will come up. Of course, I will. I am not one to turn down stage appearances.

After I climb up on stage, the entertainer turns on rap music and hands me a book. It is Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham" book. Rap music is not my preferred music format, but I launch into a spirited rendition complete with the New York rap dialect. Though I may not be versed in rap, this former New Jersey girl can do a pretty good imitation of New York rapper dialect. Peg is rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter, the entertainer is stunned, and the audience is loving it.

Later in the evening, the entertainer asks me to come up and assist another customer in playing the drums. The customer had a case of stage fright, so I had to take over for him. I'm not a percussionist, but I managed an acceptable rendition of some rock song.

Ben and Peg's husband, Bill, would not have been too surprised to hear about tonight's impromptu stage appearance. They know Peg and I can be silly when we get together. We have hit the Southwest shopping and Margarita trail. It's best that we avoid calling home now. We will inform them of our travel adventures by e-mail.

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