Lincoln County News
June 18, 1998

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes my appearance on Jim Crocker's noontime TV show. Plans are being finalized for my upcoming cross-country Tour. Good news on my Dr. reports and tests. Lurk gets ready for his summer vacation!

May 24, 1998: Today, Ben and I are driving my new car down to a Corvette Show in Merrimack, NH. The show is sponsored by the Gate City Corvette Club from Nashua, NH. The show site is on the lovely grounds of the Anheuser-Busch facility. It is a beautiful Spring day and nearly 200 Corvettes are at the show.

Tom and Charlene are already there with their silver convertible and we park right next to them. Ben and I really did not want to "show" the car as it means cleaning it inside and out for judging. We did a superficial job and parked it. We are here today to enjoy ourselves and visit with our friends from all the New England Corvette Clubs.

I set up a poster display and information next to my car about our Corvettes Conquer Cancer Tour. During the show, many people came over and took information and talked to us about the Tour. One gentleman came over and told me he had lost his wife to cancer in January. They had been married for nearly 35 years and the pain of his loss was still so fresh in his mind. In describing her long bout with cancer, he broke down in tears and I comforted him. Moments like this are equally hard for me to bear. There are so many people who are grieving for loved ones lost to cancer. Though I was shaken by this poor man's tears, it only reinforces my determination to speak out for him and others during my cross-country public appearances. We must raise funds to find a cure for this dread disease.

After the man walked away, I thought about how I am dedicating my Tour to all those who are battling cancer or have lost their lives to cancer. I plan to purchase a journal or diary book, and write down the names of my grandmother, Polly and my other dear friends who have died from cancer. I will also list the names of fellow cancer survivors. During my Tour, I will invite people to add names. Having a memory book that I take with me during my travels this summer will personalize my mission.

Later in the afternoon, a woman who appeared to be in her early 40's, came over to me and said she received a bone marrow transplant nearly eight years ago to treat her breast cancer, at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She explained that her transplant was rough, and she had some serious liver complications. She is now healthy, working full-time and living a very normal life. She said her only problem was that her hair never completely grew back and is permanently thin. The woman is now a walking, talking poster child for the transplant program, and she is often called upon to speak with prospective transplant patients.

After the trophies were awarded at the show today, a drawing was held for a 50/50 raffle conducted by the host Corvette Club. The winner received $313 and the Corvette Club announced that they were donating their half to our trip expenses! Ben and I were completely surprised and touched by this kind gesture. The host Club then invited us back to a member's home for a pizza party. It was a very enjoyable end to a glorious day. I will miss seeing all my New England Corvette friends this summer. Today's camaraderie is so typical of the fellowship and generosity we have found in all of the Corvette people we have met over the years. I know we will find this same spirit as we travel across the country.

May 26, 1998: Today, I will be the guest on the Jim Crocker noontime show on WCSH TV. I have asked Dot to travel with me to Portland for the live TV show. I am driving my new car and Dot will have the opportunity to drive it back from Portland. She wants to get completely familiar with my car and how it drives before she flies out to Rapid City, South Dakota to replace Ben as my co-driver on July 19th. Sue has teased Dot about Rapid City, saying that it's a very appropriate destination for Dot, who has a heavy foot on the accelerator (according to Dot's husband, Bill).

Dot seems very impressed with the car. Her daughter, Sheryl, comes out with her camera to get a few photos of us before we head out to Portland. When we arrive at WCSH, I don't like the parking situation in their lot. I am afraid of door dings, but the lot attendant doesn't seem to care. So, I go into the lobby and page Jim Crocker, who comes down to look over the car and the parking situation. I finally decide to squeeze the car into a narrow spot between two cars that the attendant says will be there all day.

Jim is very friendly and takes us into the studio, where the noontime anchor, Pat Callahan, is just finishing up the news. Dot sits off to the side, off-camera, but in a spot where she can see everything happening. Jim rigs up my microphone and ear-piece. He tells me not to be nervous. Actually, I hadn't thought about being nervous until he mentioned it. I really am not scared because I cannot see the monitor or see what is happening on camera from where I am seated. Jim and I quickly review what we will talk about. I have brought the miniature model of my red Corvette, and a map of the U.S. showing all the planned stops on my Tour. The camera man does a count-down and we are on the air.

Jim briefly describes my background and my column in the newspaper. We then briefly chat about my concerns with parking my Corvette. I suggest to Jim that the camera man could aim the tower cam down at my car in the parking lot, and use it as a security camera. The camera man quickly makes some adjustments and in a few seconds, there is my red car in full view, with people walking around it and obviously checking it out!

I answer a few questions from Jim before he takes calls from viewers. Next is a commercial, and when we come back on the air, Jim posts the address and phone number for information about my Tour. I describe how I am taking a giant leap of faith by going out on this Tour without a sponsor, and hoping that all will work out in the long run. The half hour flies by so quickly and in no time, the show is over.

I have invited Jim to drive my car after the show. He says he doesn't have much time and will only go around the block. Once he drives out of the lot, he changes his mind and heads out on the Interstate. I can tell that he is loving every minute of it. Jim says he drove a 1975 or 1976 Corvette for a year, many years ago. Jim is a very likable person and genuinely interested in meeting people. I hope I can come back on his show when I get back from my Tour.

Dot and I are pulling out of the parking lot just as Diane Atwood arrives in the WCSH van. She immediately notices the new red Corvette and comes running over to us. She is very excited that my new car has finally arrived. I tell her about the Official Send-Off by Governor King and Mary Herman from the Blaine House in Augusta on June 11th. Diane pulls out her appointment calendar and checks the date. She exclaims that she is free that morning and will be able to attend. I am so glad that she will be there to share in this special occasion. Many of my friends will also be there to see us off and some will bring their Corvettes to form a little caravan.

On the way home, Dot enjoys driving my new car and is surprised at how well it rides and handles. She is also pleased with the arrangement of the dashboard gauges, the comfortable seats and the luggage space. She had expected my car to be small in size and limited in space. Dot is very technically and mechanically inclined and she says she wants to read the owner's manual before our trip.

Dot and I stop at Gritty McDuff's in Freeport for a late lunch. It is a fun casual dining spot with super burgers and excellent lunches. We also swing by Midcoast Hospital, so I can get my blood tests done. This will be my last blood test before heading out this summer. I hope the test results show no problems. I don't want anything to get in the way of my Tour plans. I am ready to take a long break from Drs., tests, and treatments.

When I return home, I receive a phone call from Jerry Burton, the editor of Corvette Quarterly, the GM magazine for Corvette owners. The magazine used to be produced by Chevrolet and a free subscription was given to each purchaser of a new Corvette. The magazine is now published by a marketing group that still has ties to Chevrolet. My friend, Dan, has put in a good word for me and talked to Jerry about my Tour. Jerry has tried to find a sponsor for us, but with no luck. He is interested, however, in my writing and suggests that Corvette Quarterly would be interested in having me write a story for their magazine. He says I can write whatever I want, though I will probably write about my life on the road, people I meet and special Corvette events. How exciting to write an article for a national car magazine! This will surely be a change of pace from my weekly column.

May 28, 1998: Yesterday, my car and I were featured on the front page of both The Lincoln County News and The Wiscasset Newspaper. The photo angles of the car are different and I am wearing the Jersey Shore wig in one and the Jezebel wig in the other, so no one can complain about duplicate photos. I feel like a celebrity this week with the TV show appearance and now two front page newspaper stories and photos. All my friends are calling to tell me they saw me on TV and in the newspapers!

Today, I talk to both Cindy and Dr. Tom. Good news! My rib x-rays show no change since the March x-ray, which reinforces that the rib fracture is just that, and not a cancerous spot. Secondly, my blood tests show normal kidney and liver function. Unfortunately, due to some screw-up in the paper work, no white and red blood cell count was taken, so I will have to go back to the lab for this test before leaving on my trip.

I am not feeling well today and I think I am coming down with some kind of infection. I have a very sore throat and feel feverish and achey. Cindy says she will discuss this with Tom and get back to me. She calls back to say that Tom is putting me on an antibiotic and will call in a prescription to the pharmacy.

My days and evenings have been spent working on arrangements for the Tour. The lack of rest and sleep, compounded by fatigue from my radiation treatments, have probably led to this infection. I am frustrated because I have so much to do and so little time before we leave. I spend the better part of the day resting in bed and worrying about how I will get everything done.

May 29, 1998: I am feeling pretty miserable with what is no doubt an upper respiratory infection. I have gotten some good news this week from all the phone calls and contacts I am making for the Tour. When I mailed in our registration fee for the Bloomington Gold event, which we will be attending June 25-28, I had enclosed a personal letter and information about the Tour. I received a phone call from Nancy Parker, the Event coordinator, who said she was returning our check. She explained that Bloomington Gold was so impressed with my Tour, they wanted to help us out as much as possible! First, they are donating 3 nights lodging to us in the host hotel! Because the Bloomington event is so huge and booked way in advance, we could only find lodging 60 miles from the fairgrounds. Secondly, they are giving us an exhibit space next to the registration area and a prime parking spot just outside the exhibit hall! We will also receive a special commemorative license plate and be given prime placement in the top 10 vehicles leading a parade of 2400 Corvettes. Nancy explains that our cause is very important to her personally as she lost her mother to cancer many years ago.

I am so thankful for Nancy's kindness and generosity in assisting us with our appearance at what is one of the largest Corvette events in the country. It will be our first big Tour appearance, so it will set the standard. Without having a sponsor, we are taking a giant leap of faith that folks will come forward and help out, just like Nancy. I am beginning to trust flying without the safety net of a sponsor.

May 30, 1998: Today, Ben and I go to a memorial service for one of our dear friends from the Cancer Support Group. Bob passed away over a month ago. He was one of our veteran members and I had known him for over five years. He was a "regular" at all our meetings and an anchor to the group. Bob was a friendly and upbeat person with a twinkle in his eye. He was the first to welcome a new member to the Group and had a way of putting anyone at ease. He had a delightful sense of humor and we also shared a common interest in cars.

There were many folks from the Support Group at the Service today and most of us stood up to speak and share our memories. During the beautiful outdoor ceremony, a bagpiper played and several of Bob's family members each released a balloon after they shared their thoughts about him. At the end of the service, Bob's wife, Debbie, released the final balloon. Unlike the other balloons that went straight up, Debbie's balloon went into a fancy little spin. It looked like it was doing a fancy little jig, with the ribbon spinning behind it, before it finally drifted off into space. We all thought that must be Bob's spirit happily leaving us behind. He will be sadly missed by many, and fondly remembered by all.

I am feeling better today, so the antibiotic must be working on my infection. Before the memorial service, Ben and I took Lurk down to Rich and Mary Ann Canfield's house for an orientation. Rich and Mary Ann have offered to take Lurk for the summer, while we are out on the Tour. Lurk is going on his own vacation of sorts. A few of my friends have suggested that Lurk will come home larger than life after eating left-overs from Canfield's Restaurant. Actually, Lurk doesn't like left-overs or table food, except for milk, vanilla ice cream, some deli cold cuts and potato chips. He really prefers his cat food, which is a senior canned variety, as well as dry chow. I am sure Rich and Mary Ann will spoil him.

We took Lurk over in his carrier box to check out his summer "digs". He seemed confused and curious at first. He walked all through Mary Ann's house looking at everything and of course, sniffing everything as well. Finally, he settled down on the living room floor and sprawled out in the normal Lurk resting pose. When it came time to leave, we had to force him back into the carrier. I don't think there will be any adjustment problems with Lurk as he likes everybody. Lurk will be going over for a trial run this weekend, while we are in Bar Harbor. It is a tremendous relief for me to know that Lurk will not be caged up all summer at a kennel. We will miss him terribly, but he will enjoy his vacation with Aunt Mary Ann and Uncle Rich.

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