Lincoln County News
July 2, 1998

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This is a long journal submission to bring my readers up to date. It is also my first from on-the-road. It describes the beginning of my four month cross-country Corvettes Conquer Cancer Tour and our official Send-Off from the Blaine House. This entry also describes our sad parting with Lurk, family and friends.

June 11, 1998: Today is our official Send-Off by Governor King and Mary Herman. Ben and I head out early for Augusta, where we will meet my father and some of our Corvette friends. My Dad is up in Maine this week for his annual fishing trip. I am glad that he will be able to join us, along with his fishing buddy, Carl.

We meet my Dad and Carl, and our Corvette friends, Tom and Charlene, Gary, Bob and Diana at the Burger King in Augusta. We will have a fine representation of Corvettes with Bob's silver 1998 coupe, Tom's silver 1998 convertible, Gary's 1966 red convertible and our red 1997 coupe. When we arrive at the Blaine House, we are joined by Sonny and Carolyn with their 1978 Pace Car Corvette and Val and Bob's 1996 red coupe. We park the Vettes in a caravan, lining the semi-circular drive.
Already, reporters from the Kennebec Journal, Sue from the Lincoln County News, Susan from the Wiscasset Newspaper and two television crews are waiting. Also, many of my friends and business associates have come up for the Send-Off. Libby has traveled down from Waldoboro with Dean. Dot, Mary Ann Canfield and Ann have come from Wiscasset. Before the ceremony starts, we get a quick tour of the Blaine House by tagging along behind a group of school children.

The Governor's press secretary, Mark, takes me aside to say that the Governor has been under the weather with the flu and will be unable to attend. His wife, Mary Herman, will do the official duties at the Send-Off. In the meantime, the two television stations interview me and the newspaper people are busy taking photos and getting comments from Ben and Mary Herman. Finally, we get in our cars and line up for the Send-Off. Mary Herman decides to ride in Gary's 1966 convertible. We slowly pull out of the Blaine House with the photographers and film crews following alongside. Dot and Sue are taking lots of pictures, so I know I will have plenty for our scrapbook. It was an exciting moment for us, but it was sad saying good-bye to friends we won't see for 4 months.

Afterwards, Dad and Carl joined us and our Corvette friends at the Senator Inn for lunch. We enjoyed visiting with my Dad and our friends before we he had to head home to tackle the monumental task of packing our car for 4 months on the road. This afternoon, we are also taking Lurk over to Mary Ann and Rich Canfield's, his vacation home. I could not bear to go with Ben when he took Lurk away in his carrier box. Poor Lurk could see that I was upset and teary-eyed and knew that something unusual was going on. Usually, the carrier box means a trip to the kennel or the Vet's, though recently, it meant two trips to Mary Ann's, which he seemed to really enjoy.

Last weekend, Lurk went to Mary Ann and Rich's house while we were in Bar Harbor. When we went to pick him up on Monday, Lurk did not want to get into his carrier. He had been spoiled by all the attention lavished on him by the Canfield's and their relatives who were visiting. Mary Ann had even put a special pillow in the window for him, bought him a catnip toy, and given him treats. She also walked him on his leash and brushed him a couple of times a day. Rich informed me that he also ate dinner with Lurk. After a summer vacation at Rich and Mary Ann's, Lurk will not want to return home.

It was very sad to see Ben drive away with Lurk this afternoon. Lurk was looking out the door of his carrier and watching me intently as Ben pulled out out of the driveway. It is difficult to part with Lurk for several months, but I know he will be in good hands. No doubt, he will be spoiled rotten and Ben and I will have to re-train and re-program him when he comes home. Mary Ann says he's like grandchildren, so she can spoil him and allow him to do things that might otherwise not be acceptable.

Ben and I spend the rest of the day sorting through everything that needs to be packed. We finally go to bed about 1 am., and decide to finish loading the car in the morning.

June 12, 1998: This is Day One of our Corvettes Conquer Cancer Tour. I can't believe that the day has finally arrived and after this hectic last week of planning, I hope we haven't forgotten anything. Ben and I arise at 6:00 am. to finish packing and loading the car. We have arranged to meet Sue and Dot at Karen's Restaurant for breakfast. Dot has her camera ready when we arrive at Karen's and is fully documenting the start of our Tour. I am sad to leave Dot and Sue. Dot will join me in Rapid City for several days on the road, but I will not see Sue for months and I will miss her. Sue and Paul will have to continue our local restaurant reviews on their own. I will also miss our regular meals at Canfield's, so my readers will have to pick up the slack at my local hang-outs.

 

While we are enjoying our breakfast at Karen's, we look through some excellent photos that Dot had taken at the Blaine House Send-Off. I will be putting these into a Tour scrapbook. Mary Ann Canfield stops by Karen's, just in time to see me opening a gift from Judy, my editor. It is a red T shirt with white lettering that says, "Body By Canfield's"! This was a reference to one of my columns where I quoted Lisa, the waitress (Mary Ann's daughter), who suggested T shirts be made up with this saying. Mary Ann was unaware of Lisa's suggestion, but gets a big chuckle when I try the shirt on for size. I tell Mary Ann that the shirts are only available in extra large and triple X. After breakfast, we drive down to Canfield's Restaurant, so Sue and Dot can take more photos of Mary Ann and me with the shirt. All too soon, it is time for hugs and good-byes. I will really miss my dear friends, but we will keep in touch by e mail, phone calls and postcards.

After a few last minute errands, Ben and I head out for his office in South Portland. We are traveling in two cars as Ben will leave his car at our daughter's in Bedford, MA, so he has a ride home when he flies back into Boston in July. We will be staying at Christy's house tonight and tomorrow. I am driving the Corvette and hoping that I have enough energy to manage the three hour drive to Bedford. After a quick stop and a few good-byes at Ben's office, we leave the Portland area around 1 pm. Every available square inch of the luggage area is filled. Fortunately, the back hatch of my new car works like a trash compactor, because when you close it, everything gets squished into place.

I hope we have remembered to pack everything. Last night, we got an unexpected addition to our cargo. Big Al generously donated 50 red 1997 Corvette models for us to give to donors who contributed $100 or more to the American Cancer Society, during the Tour. The models are attractive and well-made, and they look just like my new car! They are individually packaged in little plastic display cases and I am sure they will be popular! Unfortunately, the boxes they are packed in are large and will not fit in my car. Ben and I manage to squeeze one into the Corvette and the other two into Ben's car. We will leave two boxes at our daughter's house, and have her ship them to us on the road. Big Al has said he will try to get us more, once this supply is used up. He was very excited about his idea to use the models as an incentive for donations. Coincidentally, last night we had stopped over to say good-bye to Al and Melissa and I was planning on asking him if he could find a suitable item that we could use as an incentive for donors! Before I could ask him, he appeared with these three boxes!

I truly believe that many little miracles are making my Tour happen. I may be flying on blind faith, but I am being constantly rewarded through many acts of kindness. Through this same sense of guidance, I think I have also made the right choice for a vanity plate on my new Corvette. For three months, I have been pondering ideas for what to put on a vanity plate. I finally selected DIDNTW8, in honor and acknowledgment of Polly's DONTW8. So, I am not waiting to live my dreams. I will make them happen with the help of divine guidance and the kindness of my friends and family.

June 13, 1998: We arrived at Christy's house around 3 pm. yesterday. It was so good to see her and Nils. We had a great dinner together and Nils' parents and grandmother also joined us. I was so tired from lack of sleep and the drive to Bedford, I went to bed right after dinner and slept almost nine hours.

During the night, we had a brat cat attack. About 4 am., Christy's two cats, Oops and Spot, broke into our bedroom by flinging themselves against the door. Though I didn't hear the door open, I awoke to one of the cats parading around on the bed and purring. I ignored the intrusion until he began pouncing and lunging at any movement under the covers. I asked Ben to remove the cat from the room, not realizing that a second perpetrator was lying in wait under the bed. I had just fallen back to sleep when I heard picking and scratching coming from under the bed. Ben looked under the bed to find cat #2. He carefully removed him to avoid the lunging claws, and wedged our bedroom door shut. We heard a few muffled meows from the hallway before we fell back to sleep. Christy reported that the brat pack apparently went downstairs after being evicted from our bedroom and cleaned off the dining room table. Christy awoke to a tremendous crash which was the candlesticks, tablecloth and an arrangement of fresh roses sliding onto the floor. Christy has hoped that the grandcats would behave themselves during our visit, but instead they showed their true colors.

Today, is a busy day for us. We travel by subway into Boston to meet Christy's work intern, Ong, for lunch. Christy works for Clarke and Company, Boston's largest PR firm. They have generously allowed her and her summer intern, Ong, some time to do publicity for our Tour. Ong wanted to meet me personally, so she could have a better feel for her task as my PR agent. She was very pleasant and brought her tape recorder along so she could record our conversation.

Tonight, is a special evening for us. The New England Corvette Council is hosting a benefit for Ben and me at the Radisson Hotel in Chelmsford, MA. Christy and Nils will join us. It has been pouring rain all day and coming back from the subway station, we drove through tremendous downpours and giant puddles of standing water. About two hours before we leave for the benefit, Nils reports that the basement of the house is filling with rain water. He and Ben work for nearly an hour, cleaning up the water. The power had gone off during the rainstorm and the sump pump could not run. Fortunately, between sweeping and a wet vac, plus the power coming back on, Ben and Nils manage to get the situation under control.

Christy has given me a scrapbook for our Tour and a pretty corsage for tonight's party. We also toast each other with glasses of champagne before heading out to the hotel. Ann and Dan, representatives of the New England Corvette Council, have put together a wonderful benefit party for us in the ballroom of the Radisson Hotel. A huge array of hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, two large sheet cakes, a cash bar, and a DJ with music and dancing is already set up when we arrive. Ann has also put up a table with posters and information about my Tour, outside the entrance to the ballroom. Many of our friends from the New England Corvette Clubs have braved the rains and deluge to attend the party.

Tonight's festivities include a cash raffle, and an auction of Corvette-related items such as models, posters, and gift certificates. The bidding goes well and everyone manages to get an item. When all was tallied up, over $2700 was raised for the Tour! We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Christy smiled and took lots of pictures, though she and Nils seemed to be valiantly suffering through the generation gap.

June 14, 1998: Today, we are supposed to appear at an all vehicle display show at Colonial Chevrolet in Acton, MA. However, the deluge continues and the show is canceled. Ben and I load up the car and say our final good-byes to Christy and Nils. It is a tearful parting. I won't see Christy until she flies out to Las Vegas in late July to join me for a short leg of my trip.

Ben and I drive over to the show site where a few of our Corvette friends are gathered under the overhang of the dealership's garage. We decide to go across the street to a Cafe for coffee and conversation before we leave on our next leg of the trip, down to my parent's in New Jersey. We will be seeing some of these Corvette friends at Corvettes Carlisle in PA, in late August. Tom and Charlene will join us in mid-July for the Black Hills Classic, which features a caravan of 400 or more Corvettes traveling from Sioux Falls to Spearfish, South Dakota.

Before noon, Ben and I head out in the rain for New Jersey and my parents' house in Barnegat Light. As my mother would say, it is not a beach day. I am beginning to wonder if picking up my car in a torrential rain storm was an omen of the continuing deluge. Everyone is asking me if I have named my new car. I have to become more familiar with my car first, but the name "Ark", is sounding like a possibility.

We arrive at my parent's around 6:15 pm. It is so good to see them and sit down to a home-cooked meal. We will have many days on the road with restaurant food. I am taking my rolling restaurant review to the national level now, though it will be without the assistance of Sue and Paul. However, I will be using the guide they gave me, the book, "Eating Your Way Across The USA".

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