Lincoln County News
July 9, 1998

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes our first Tour appearance at a car event, the Somerville NJ Cruise Night. We travel westward to Corning, NY to spend a weekend with Corvette friends. We are seeing beautiful parts of the country and meeting many new friends along the road. My memory book is filling up with the names of fellow survivors, as well as those lost to cancer.

June 19, 1998: We arrived in Princeton, NJ yesterday to spend two days with my sister, Peg, and her husband, Bill. Tonight is Cruise Night in Somerville, NJ, about a half hour drive from Peg's house. Ben and I drive to Somerville in the Corvette and Peg takes their 1987 Grand National Buick. Unfortunately, Bill can't join us this evening because he is working on a film in New York City, and they are filming from 5 pm. to 2 am. tonight.

I have decided to live dangerously this week. It is very hot and humid, so I have decided to go out without my wig. My hair is growing back in, but is still ridiculously short. Ben says I look like my brother did when he was 10 years old and had a crew cut. Hopefully, not too many people will stare at me. I figure that short hair must be "in" during hot weather, so no one will think it looks unusual. Both Peg and my mother say it looks fine and not weird.

I have been up to the Somerville Cruise Night on several occasions in the past few years. It is sponsored by the Somerville Merchant's Association and the Classic Cruisers Car Club, and is held every Friday night during the summer, weather permitting. Tonight, it is warm and clear and there is a huge turn-out of all kinds of vehicles: Corvettes, Street Rods, Antiques and all kinds of special interest cars of all vintages. Peg says it's especially busy tonight because the past two Fridays were rained out.

The cars park along the downtown streets and a local radio station provides music. Tonight's Cruise Night is held in front of a newly refurbished bank. It is the grand opening for the bank which is housed in a beautifully renovated sandstone building with art deco styling. The DJ is set up in front of the bank.

The Classic Cruisers Club and the Central Jersey Corvette Club have been promoting our appearance for the past two weeks. Representatives from the Cruisers, John and Louis, are there to greet us, as well as Mike and Karen from the Corvette Club. Two days before, the metro editor of the daily newspaper, The Courier News, phoned me and conducted an hour interview over the phone, which resulted in a feature story in yesterday's paper. Many readers have turned out to meet me this evening, along with most of the members of the Central Jersey Corvette Club.

We receive VIP treatment and the DJ makes repeated announcements throughout the evening. Two volunteers from the local American Cancer Society have also set up a table of literature, and all the Corvette Club members have put coin cans by their cars to collect money for the American Cancer Society. Over $600 was collected throughout the evening!

I also put my memory book out on a small table in front of my car. I asked each person who stopped by to meet me, to write names in the book. Many of those who talked to me, shared their personal experiences with cancer and thanked me for what I was doing. At the end of the evening, I was surprised at how many names and messages were written into the book. I am pleased to see the overwhelming response to my memory book. I am glad that others appreciate that cancer should be recognized and personalized with names rather than statistics.

Ben and I met many new friends this evening. We always enjoy the fellowship of car enthusiasts. The evening ended with a special event that the Corvette Club had arranged for us: a parade lap with a police escort. Twenty Corvettes followed us as we drove through the town. Many folks waved and applauded as we drove through the streets. Before saying our good-byes and heading home, we joined many of the club members at a local ice cream stand. We will be seeing some of these new Corvette friends at upcoming Corvette events later this summer in Carlisle, PA and Bowling Green, KY.

June 20, 1998: Ben and I travel to Corning, NY to visit with our old friends, Dee and Bill, who belong to a NY Corvette Club. We will be staying at their house this weekend. Bill and Dee have invited some of their fellow club members to join us for dinner tonight. Everyone is excited about our Tour and wants to know all the details.

Dee collects Beanie Babies and held a raffle of a Beanie Baby at her workplace and Bill's, to collect funds for our Tour. Through the raffle, $100 was raised for the Tour! Dee also presented me with a special Beanie Baby, a black panther named Velvet, in honor of my old car! Velvet now resides on top of the center console in my new Corvette.

June 21, 1998: Today, Bill gives us what he calls the 50 cent tour of Corning. We start at the Corning Glass Museum, which is absolutely fascinating. I was surprised to learn that glass has been around for many centuries. The museum has many fine examples of glass jewelry, vessels, urns and other items from early Egypt, Greece, Rome and Persia that are thousands of years old.
Next, we travel to Harris Hill, the sailplane and glider capital of the world. Located on top of a flat hill overlooking the river valley, and between the mountains, the hill is an ideal spot for gliding in the updrafts. Seated on swings with a panorama view of the valley below, we watch as dozens of gliders are towed and launched, one right after another, by two tow planes.

Later in the day, we drive to Keuka Lake, one of the Finger Lakes. We arrive in time to enjoy dinner at the Park Hill Hotel in Hammondsport, located at the foot of the lake. After supper, we drive to a high point overlooking the lake. The Finger Lakes region is noted for its particular climate and humidity conducive to growing grapes. Hundreds of vineyards line the hills running down to the lakes. Most of New York's wineries are located in this region. Looking down at the rows and rows of grapevines, I imagine that this area must resemble the vineyards in France. It is absolutely spectacular on this longest day of the year, the beginning of summer, with the sun setting behind us. Ben has been taking lots of photographs which I hope will convey the beautiful panorama view of the 22 mile long Keuka Lake.

June 22, 1998: Today, we drive to Akron, Ohio. We are meeting one of my high school friends, Rick, for dinner. Rick and I have been communicating by e mail and he has been following my column on the Internet. I haven't seen him since we graduated from Princeton High School in 1964. He went on to Middlebury College in Vermont and I went off to college in Pennsylvania. Through a series of career changes, he lived in Sioux Falls, Iowa for nearly 20 years until settling in the Akron area. He now works for a medical products and services company, and is an assistant professor of emergency medical services.

Rick and I spend the evening reminiscing about high school and mutual friends. After dinner, I offer him a ride in my new car. Rick is a big guy, a former football player who has slightly expanded (haven't we all!) after high school. He doesn't think he can fit in my car, but he does with room to spare. My Corvette is rather deceiving space-wise. It looks small, but the seating compartment is spacious and the seats have multiple adjustments. I take Rick for a quick ride, but not a fast one as we are in an area of 35 mph speed limits. Though he didn't get the full effect, he seems to have enjoyed the ride anyway.

It was fun to connect with an old high school buddy. Many of my high school classmates have been communicating with me by e mail since my illness. All have written notes of encouragement and sent along kind thoughts. It is amazing how strong bonds remain, even 30 some years later. I hope to meet up with more of my old high school buddies as I travel across the country.

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