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Lincoln County News
July 1, 1999

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes my speech at the Maine Mammography Association's statewide conference, and my return to life on the road as the Corvettes Conquer Cancer Tour travels to Bloomington, IL.

June 18, 1999: After a final good-bye dinner at Canfield's with Sue and Paul, we return to our final packing chores. Mary Ann comes by to pick up Lurk. Lurk has seen the hand-writing on the wall: suitcases and his carrier box mean a trip to the kennel or Mary Ann's, the later being more like a feline vacation spa. Mary Ann brushes and walks Lurk several times a day. She also brings him freshly cooked haddock and shrimp treats from her restaurant. Lurk has been known to join Rich at the kitchen table for a meal. At our house, the kitchen table and countertops are off limits, but at Mary Ann's, Lurk sets his own rules. Mary Ann says Lurk is like grandchildren, so he is allowed special privileges at her house. Though we will miss Lurk, he is in expert hands that will spoil him rotten while we are away.

June 19, 1999: Today, we are leaving for a huge 5 day Corvette event in Bloomington, IL. Bloomington Gold was the first Corvette event of our 1998 Tour, and we have been invited back this year. Event coordinators, Mike and Nancy, went overboard to welcome us and promote the cause last summer. Nancy lost her mother to breast cancer, so she has a very personal interest in helping us promote the Tour. Mike and Nancy's kindness and generosity, and the connections we made at Bloomington set the standard for our Tour in 1998, and launched us into the spotlight in the Corvette world.

Before we depart the state of Maine this morning, I am speaking at a conference for mammography technicians in Portland. My one hour speech from 8:15 to 9:15 am. will include my slide presentation, with a short question and answer session to follow. Ben and I arrive at the Dana Auditorium at Maine Medical Center and are met by the conference coordinators, Susan and Maria. The Dana Auditorium is a beautiful facility with theatre-style seating, a huge screen and sophisticated equipment for computerized slide presentations. Fortunately, we have allowed enough time for Ben to figure out all the controls to hook up our computer and slides to this elaborate system.

Susan introduces me and I begin with my cancer history. I have revised the speech I gave at the Living With Cancer Conference to include specific references to my mammography history. I describe in detail how microcalcifications in my right breast were followed by mammography for six years. It was these tiny microcalcifications that were later implicated in the development of my breast cancer. The technicians listen with great interest. Before moving on to questions, I go through my slide presentation and describe what it is like being a cancer patient/survivor. Every technician is aware how crucial mammography exams are in detecting breast cancer. Yet, it is just as pertinent and valuable for them to hear from the patient, the person on the other side of the machine.

I take questions for nearly half an hour. Because I have had what seems like hundreds of mammograms done over a period of nearly 15 years and at four different hospitals, I am asked to share my observations on exams and how technicians might improve their rapport with patients. Many of the technicians describe how difficult it is to help patients relax, and at the same time, convey the importance of good compression during an exam. Women frequently dread or avoid mammograms, fearing that the compression of their breasts by the x-ray machine will be painful. Compression can be uncomfortable, but I look at it much like getting a shot or having blood drawn. It's only a brief discomfort, and I would much rather have some temporary soreness and feel reassured that the technician got a good x-ray view. Without adequate compression, many small cancers and pre-cancers cannot be detected.

Some technicians worry about how they present themselves to patients. They want to be friendly and casual, but also professional and thorough. There is a fine line between being professional, yet establishing a friendly, reassuring connection that puts a patient at ease. My speech was well-received and I leave the room feeling that I have set a good tone for the rest of the conference. Susan presents me with a small honorarium. I had not requested a fee, so I guess this is my official start to being a professional public speaker.

Ben and I are back on the road by 10 am. and arrive in Syracuse, NY by late afternoon. For dinner, we discover a delightful Italian restaurant, Joey's, right next door to our hotel. Joey's is so special, it deserves this week's restaurant review. Ben and I share an appetizer of fried calamari, a great beginning to an even greater meal. For entrees, we both order Linguini a la Tarantese, a delicious buttery white sauce with sautéed snails and fresh mushrooms, served over a bed of homemade linguini, topped with two large Australian mussels. Our marvelous waitress, Nancy, steers us to this house specialty as well as other delights. We have absolutely no room for dessert, but because all of the desserts are homemade in-house, we decide to share a tiramisu, figuring it will slide down easily. It certainly does and is by far the best tiramisu we have ever eaten. If you're traveling through Syracuse and looking for excellent, modestly priced Italian cuisine, in a quiet relaxed atmosphere, Joey's is just off Interstate 90 at Thompson Road.

June 21, 1999: Today, we arrive at Chuck Mallett's Racing Shop in Berea, OH. Chuck has kindly offered to mount a new set of tires and wheels on our car. Chuck and his crew donated an entire day to working on our car last year as a contribution to the Tour. Chuck told me to call him if I needed further work, so I am taking him up on his kind offer. Our wonderful sponsor, Corvette Mike, has donated and already shipped a new set of chrome wheels to Chuck's shop. The wheels are an advertisement for Corvette Mike's wheel department. They are very shiny, and as Mike says, are "jewelry" for my car. We have helped sell many sets of Corvette Mike wheels by just showcasing them on my car. The old set of wheels was beginning to show a little wear after 32,000 miles. Mike wants the wheels to look spotless, so a new set was a must for our upcoming Tour appearances.

Chuck has provided us with a slightly used, but nearly new set of tires. We arrive to find the new tires mounted on the wheels and ready to be installed on my car. Chuck is away, but his dad and fellow crew members are there to chat with us while Matt and Paul mount the wheels. Our tires have taken quite a beating from so many highway miles. Though the rear tires are still adequate, the front ones are badly worn and noisy. Time for a tire change to get us through the Tour season. Matt suggests that we talk to one of the tire manufacturers at Bloomington Gold and describe how we have gone through two sets of tires in our travels. Matt thinks that the make tire we are currently using is not suitable for long-life wear, and perhaps another tire manufacturer can provide us with better tires in return for promoting them on our car.

June 22, 1999: Because we finished up so quickly at Chuck's shop, we are a day ahead of schedule, arriving in Dayton, OH, last night. Ben and I decide to spend our extra day sight-seeing. We remembered seeing some beautiful covered bridges in western Indiana, on our trip last June, so we stop at the Indiana Information Center this morning to peruse the information on covered bridges. We discover that Parke County, IN boasts 32 covered bridges. Conveniently, Parke County is on our way to Champaign/Urbana, IL, our next stop. The girl behind the counter at the Information Center offers to check on lodging for us in the Rockville area, the heart of covered bridge country. Everything is booked except for some Bed and Breakfasts. I review the information on two of the B&B's and decide that I like the description of the Old Maple Inn in Carbon, IN. Located in a turn-of-the-century farmhouse, the inn offers 4 rooms in the main house, a cozy rustic room off the house, and 2 suites in a back barn building. The inn also overlooks the Conleys-Ford Covered Bridge.

After a two hour interstate drive, and another hour off the main road, we turn down a mile-long gravel road that winds through corn fields and thick woods. The Old Maple Inn looks like a typical mid-western farmhouse complete with front porch rockers and wicker furniture. Several huge maple trees line the front lawn. Cindy, the innkeeper comes out to greet us. She tells us that iced tea and sodas are always available in the dining room. We are staying in one of the back barn suites. What a delightful break from our on the road motels, with just the sound of birds filling the hazy humid air.

Ben and I manage to find about 10 of the covered bridges including the oldest and longest. They are all incredibly sturdy wooden structures that have withstood time and the elements. Today has been a typical hot Indiana summer day with thick haze and humidity, and a constant hot breeze. I remember last year being amazed at the constant hot breeze in the midwest. It could be 90 or 100 degrees, but there was always a warm breeze blowing. In Maine during the summer, we have cool breezes that blow in off the ocean. Ben says that warm air blows across the midwest plains because they are so open and flat, with few trees or hills to buffer the wind. I am listening for cicadas and the meadowlarks that sing from the fence rows along the cornfields, my fondest memories of our drive through the Indiana countryside last year.

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