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Lincoln County News
December 24, 1998

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes our check presentation for proceeds from the Corvettes Conquer Cancer Tour. Office parties replace the weekly restaurant review, and a new record is set at Canfield's. My family faces the agonizing wait for test results from my dad's lung biopsy.

December 10, 1998: Today, we are holding a press conference and check presentation at Strong Chevrolet in Damariscotta. We are presenting the American Cancer Society with a check for proceeds from the Corvettes Conquer Cancer Tour. Naturally, Sue was at the press conference along with reporters from the other area newspapers. She took photos of me waving from inside my car, and of Ben and me standing next to my car parked in the middle of the showroom. Betsy from Strong's placed some Christmas wreaths and large poinsettia plants around my car so that it looked very festive. My friends, Dot and Charlene came to spectate and Dot joined the group of photographers, promising me some photos that might be usable for a Christmas card.

Ben and I had prepared a giant poster-sized check for our presentation, making it look very official. Connie Chapman, Regional Executive Director for the American Cancer Society, was there to accept our check. We had previously turned in over $2500, and today's checks totaled $7800. We estimate that we have raised over $10,000, not including donations that were mailed directly to the Society. The Society is still tabulating those figures. I am very happy that we were able to raise that much money without having a full sponsor or underwriting. It is still a drop in the bucket for what needs to be raised to fund cancer research. As long as I feel able to travel and do public speaking engagements, I intend to keep the Tour active and "out on the road".

December 11, 1998: Sadly, there is no restaurant review this week because of office Christmas parties. Both Ben and Paul have office parties tonight, so Paul and Sue are headed up to Belgrade Lakes for theirs and we are headed to the Marriott in South Portland for Ben's. Office parties can be pretty painful social affairs. This is the first office party that we have attended, having had conflicting dates and holiday events in previous years. Even though I had met only a few of Ben's fellow workers in the past, I enjoyed myself because Ben's boss, Bob, and his wife and business partner, Val, are friendly people and perfect hosts. The entire evening was well-planned and no expense was spared, from the open bar to the delicious appetizers, prime rib dinner (which we chose from a selection of 3 entrees) and the fantastic live band entertainment.

Val is also a cancer survivor herself. A lymphoma patient, she has managed to overcome her illness and lead a very active work and family life. Because of her personal experience, she and Bob can readily identify with my cancer. They have been very supportive and kind to Ben and me throughout my illness. In fact, Val keeps in touch with me regularly by e mail. Tonight, at the dinner, Bob made a brief speech recognizing the value of all of his employees and how they work together like a family. He then acknowledged and thanked Ben and me for inspiring everyone by our Tour cause and efforts to help others. I was pleasantly surprised to be singled out, but I reminded Bob afterwards that employees are also inspired by their managers. Bob and Val, with their own generous and caring behavior, set an example for their employees. Every month, ValCom has  a Dress-Down Day or some benefit going on for a needy cause. Helping others is considered standard office procedure at Ben's office. It's a simple principle: you reap what you sow. More businesses should operate that way.

December 12, 1998: We are headed to visit our daughter, Christy, and her husband, Nils in Bedford, MA. This weekend will be a combination home remodeling project and early Christmas celebration. Christy and Nils, as relatively new homeowners, are into remodeling projects. We have long since outgrown our interest in remodeling since we are now living in house #3, have discovered that remodeling really isn't fun, and our energy and interest level have dwindled to zero. Fortunately, in the far recesses of his mind, Ben still has retained some expertise in painting, plumbing and electrical work. On today's agenda is ceiling painting in the living room and office, replacement of the faucet in the downstairs bathroom, a toilet valve repair, removal of ceiling fans and switching their locations, and installing a new ceiling light fixture. Ben will assist Nils and his father in the work projects. Christy and I are wisely vacating the premises and going to the Burlington Mall for a day of Christmas shopping.

Of course, the Mall is mobbed this close to Christmas. We arrive around 11:30 am. and decide to do an early lunch before shopping. This proved to be the right decision, as we were seated immediately in one of the restaurants. When we finished our meal, long lines were backed up at all the restaurants in the Mall.

I have warned Christy that I will have to take it easy today, and rest frequently. I actually manage to negotiate the Mall quite well with just a couple of breaks. Christy was able to find everything on her list. I had very little Christmas shopping to do because I had done most of mine during my trip this past summer. I bought some very unique gifts out in the southwest that I think my friends and family will enjoy.

When we arrive back at Christy's house, the men have just finished all the work projects and are in the midst of cleaning up. Perfect timing! Christy and I set out some cheese and crackers and decide to have drinks and open our Christmas gifts before dinner. Christy and Nils will spend Christmas with Nils' parents in New Hampshire, and we will be in New Jersey, so this weekend is the only time we could get together and do our family Christmas celebration.

After all the gifts are opened and the cats have tried to eat the paper and ribbons, we go out for an excellent dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. Afterwards, we return home to relax and enjoy the Boston Pops Christmas concert on television. Speaking of the cats, Oops and Spot have been on their very best behavior this weekend. Last week, Christy was so distressed over Oops' 4:30 am. outburst of destroying the kitchen trash, that she chased him off by flailing him with a TV Guide, and later called the Vet to discuss Oops' continued episodes of destruction. The Vet said that Oops was comparable in age to a 5 year old child. She said that Oops may or may not outgrow his bad behavior, and her suggested remedy was to hide the trash. Christy has tried numerous ways to secure the trash, but Oops has been able to circumvent them all. I told Christy that she ought to send Oops to the Vet's house for a weekend. I bet the Vet would then have a lot of suggestions on how to deal with destructive cat behavior.

December 17, 1998: This has been a relatively quiet week for me other than attending several meetings and luncheon engagements. Yesterday, I set a record for appearances at Canfield's Restaurant in one day. First, I started off the morning with a meeting at Canfield's. Mary Ann was kind enough to open early for a business meeting of the MidCoast Chamber Council. Then, I returned at 12:30 for lunch with Sue. Finally, Ben and I showed up for a 6 pm. dinner before my Wiscasset Area Community Fair meeting at the Municipal Building.

I have slowly recovered from the sinus infection that plagued me last week. I am feeling much more energetic, though I am having a few aches and pains in my back, hip and shoulder this week. Since I have been receiving Aredia IV infusions, I have noticed that I get aches and pains in my bones about one week before my next Aredia infusion is due. Next Monday is my IV infusion and appointment with Dr. Tom. It is almost like the previous infusion is wearing off and my body is telling me it's time for the next one.

Today, is my Dad's surgery and biopsy of the lung. He went into the hospital around 5 am. this morning and was out of surgery by 10:30 am. My sister, Mary Ann, is staying with my mother and has already called me twice from the hospital. The surgeon used a scope procedure to check the inside of the lung, which he said appeared normal. However, the outside of the lung was inflamed, and part of the lung was folded over. The surgeon took samples of tissue from inside and outside of the lung, plus the chest wall. He told my sister and mother that the frozen biopsy specimen showed no malignancy, but it will be Tuesday before they have the results back from all of the samples and tests. He said that there is still a 50-50 chance that the lung problem is a malignancy. So, my Dad is resting comfortably and in no pain in ICU. He has a few holes punched in him, plus some drains. He will probably be in ICU overnight and in the hospital for about 5 days. In the meantime, it is the frustrating waiting game all over again. Waiting for test results and waiting to see what comes next.

I am thankful that my entire family has rallied together to support my mother and dad during this crisis. Even Peg will be down to relieve Mary Ann next week and my brother, Ray, will put in a stint of duty as well. I am hoping and praying that my dad will get good news next week. Today, I set up my little healing shrine which my father would certainly think is absolutely pointless and ridiculous. My little display includes a photo of my dad happily driving his boat, and four scented votive candles in shades or pink, green and pale blue. The candles were given to me by a psychic who firmly believes in the healing power of certain colors and aromas. I am skeptical about psychic powers and abilities, but lighting votive candles is symbolic and part of my religious training. I figured that I might as well use these candles that had been given to me to aid in my recovery. Maybe my combination of prayers and healing thoughts wafting heavenward along with the aroma of scented candles will bring us both some good news.

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