Lincoln County News
January 28, 1999

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes our Corvettes Conquer Cancer Tour appearance at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Orlando, FL. Five long days of manning our outdoor booth space are rewarded with sunny weather and 70 degree temperatures. We squeeze in a quick one day visit to Epcot before heading home.

January 16, 1999: We have had two long, busy days at our booth space at the NCRS Show in Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. As a vendor, our days start early as we must have our booth set up and ready to go by 7:30 am., and keep it operating until 5 pm. It is a rather tiring, long day for me as my stamina and energy are limited. Also, our booth is not covered by an awning or tent, so we are at the mercy of wind, sun and rain. Bill, one of the NCRS officials, had told me the rain was gone, whatever that meant. So far, he has been correct. It has been windy at times and I have a collection of rocks holding down my cancer information pamphlets and other materials.

Being outside and in a very visible spot at the entrance to the vendor area has its benefits. Everyone stops by to say hello and wish us well, pick up literature or make donations. I am still selling our promotional Corvette models and our Route 66 diner trinket boxes for a $25 donation. I was pleased to deplete our stock to just two diners and two models. Not only does it boost donations, it frees up space in my car.

I also have the opportunity to chat with several cancer survivors including two colon cancer patients, some long-term breast cancer survivors (one 10 years, the other 15), and a Hodgkin's survivor who has been dealing with serious lymphedema in his arm. He wears an elastic sleeve and goes for a special monthly massage treatment that has reduced the swelling in his arm by 91%. He said that his lymphedema had been so bad, he could not bend his arm. Lymphedema is worse in warm climates, and I notice that my arm has swelled significantly by the end of the day. It will probably improve when we return to the frozen land of the tundra, but I am still considering massage therapy if my insurance will cover it.

The Disney sports complex where the NCRS show is taking place, is the winter training camp for the Atlanta Braves. Ben points out Ted Turner's lettered parking place. The entire facility is beautiful with many manicured playing fields and a huge fieldhouse where the show Corvettes are housed indoors for judging. Specially trained judges will go over every inch of these cars looking for correct details and parts. NCRS allows only 1953-1982 Corvettes to be considered for review. The judging process takes several days and will culminate in the awards this evening.

Tonight, Ben and I attend the Awards Banquet at the fieldhouse. We are seated down front as I will be making a short speech on stage. Corvette Mike and his wheel and accessory specialist, Ray Sweeney, join us at our table. I had tried to talk with Mike at his booth today, but he and his crew were as busy as we were, so tonight is the first time we can really chat. I have prepared only a few brief remarks because the awards will be long and involved. I speak for about four minutes and describe the success of last year's Tour. Many of the folks in the room know us or have met us on the road last year. I describe how we are celebrating the rising number of cancer survivors in this country. There are now nearly 10 million cancer survivors, a significant change in the past several years. More and more people are surviving cancer, and many patients are living longer, better quality lives. I emphasize that this is an encouraging trend, but we must continue to fight cancer: with a check and a check-up. More funding for cancer research will bring us one step closer to a cure. My brief remarks seemed to be well-received, as many folks came up afterwards to thank me for continuing the Tour and speaking out about cancer. I reminded them all that there wasn't a person in the room who has not been affected by this disease, either personally, or through a family member or friend.

January 17, 1999: Today, we move our booth and display to the Town Green area of the sports complex for an outdoor Corvette show hosted by the Orlando Corvette Club. Most of the vendors at the NCRS show packed up early today and went home. It also looks like our luck on weather is running out. By mid-afternoon, a huge black cloud appears and a downpour sends us scurrying for cover as we drag our table under a nearby portico. Fortunately, the shower passes by quickly and the show soon concludes with trophy and award presentations. We have done fairly well in terms of donations and handing out literature, but more importantly we have had conversations with many of the participants. It is the one-on-one connection that best promotes our cause and cancer awareness.

Yesterday, as we were leaving breakfast, we met a Disney employee, Lauren, who came over to ask about our car and the American Cancer Society's involvement in the Tour. Lauren's mother is on the American Cancer Society's National Board of Directors. Lauren has been brought up in the spirit of volunteering for the Society. She is currently an intern at Disney, working in the travel services department which distributes and monitors Disney promotional materials in locations around the Orlando area. She says she hopes to eventually return home to Illinois and get a job working with the American Cancer Society's public relations department. Lauren asks if we will have time to visit any of the Disney Theme Parks. We tell her that we plan to stay an extra day and visit Epcot. We have had to make a tough decision between Disney World and Epcot, as we know we cannot do both in one day. Lauren kindly offers to get us tickets using her employee discount! She gives us her phone number and says to call her when we our plans are finalized. What a sweet kind girl who will no doubt go far in the public relations world. By the way, Disney employees are NOT referred to as employees, they are called "cast members".

January 18, 1999: Today, we are going to Epcot. Lauren has gotten us tickets at a reduced price. I have given Lauren one of our signed promotional model Corvettes as a thank you for her kind assistance. Ben and I arrive at Epcot as the gates open. We have been advised to do several things upon arrival. First, we make a reservation for dinner at one of the restaurants, Alfredo's, in the Italy exhibit. Secondly, we rent a wheelchair for me. I feel like I am wimping out by doing this, but my mother and friends have warned me about the huge amount of walking and standing in lines. I know that I better err on the side of caution.

Several of the exhibits are closed for renovations, but there is still plenty to see. Our first stop is the new GM Test Track ride and exhibit. We wait over 1 1/2 hours in line, but it was well-worth the wait. The exhibit is an interesting working display of crash testing machinery, and the 5 minute ride in a test vehicle is fantastic. Next, we walk, or should I say I ride while poor Ben pushes me in my wheelchair, to all of the international exhibits. Our favorites were China, Canada and the US exhibits. China and Canada have wonderful 360 degree surrounding movie screen presentations with photography that makes you feel like you are soaring above oceans, rivers, mountains, fields, towns and cities. Absolutely incredible, and it is like you are really there visiting the country in person. We also thoroughly enjoyed the Living Seas exhibit with its huge fish tanks filled with all kinds of fish and marine life. I also managed to find Mickey Mouse, so I could be photographed with him. I commented to Ben how small and short the character playing Mickey was, and Ben reminded me that after all, Mickey is a mouse.

Our day is capped off by the most magnificent fireworks and laser light show we have ever seen. It is held at closing and lasts only 15 minutes. The fireworks are spectacular and laser light beams, located on each of the international exhibits, shine patterns into the sky. Each exhibit building is outlined with lights which flash on and off in tune with the music. Fountains of water also are choreographed to the music and fireworks. It's hard to describe, but if you are ever in Orlando, you must see this nightly event at Epcot.

I cannot believe we have crammed so much into one day. I am exhausted and poor Ben will never be able to move tomorrow after pushing me around all day today. Being in a wheelchair is an experience everyone should try. It's humbling and it gives you an entirely different perspective on what it's like for those who must use a wheelchair everyday.

January 20, 1999: We left Orlando yesterday and drove to Savannah. We hated to leave the warm weather in Florida. Tonight, we are staying in Emporia, VA, just across the line from North Carolina. Tomorrow, we will drive to my parents house in Barnegat Light. We are doing 400 mile days which are about my limit.

Tonight, I felt compelled to do the first restaurant review of our trip. About 5 miles off Interstate 95, on Emporia's Main St. is a wonderful restaurant called the Squire House. It features fresh seafood and hand-cut steaks. Located in a beautiful old mansion with high ceilings and understated late Victorian period decor, the restaurant reminded me of the Bailey Inn in Wiscasset with its many small dining rooms. We dined in a room that must have once been the library. A fire was going in the fireplace and we had the most delicious fried fresh oysters, done up in a very light batter, and an excellent strip steak. Ben and I shared this surf and turf combination. Accompanying our meals were warm hushpuppies served with a honey butter, salad, potatoes and freshly baked bread. For dessert, I ordered the homemade rice pudding which was really a bread pudding with rice and raisins added. Excellent choice! Ben had the apple cobbler which also passed the taste test. And, best yet, all of this at a moderate if not modest price. So, if you are ever in the Emporia area, check out the Squire House. It is always fun to find a special place like this totally by accident. That's what makes traveling on the road so very interesting.

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