Lincoln County News
May 13, 1999

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes my TV appearance, and how pure adrenaline comes to the rescue during my speech at the Living With Cancer Conference. Lurk redeems himself by ending the mouse invasion.

April 29, 1999: Today is Lurk's 15th birthday and he received a surprise gift. After diligently standing guard by our basement door, Lurk's patience has been rewarded. Around 10 pm., Ben and I heard a loud thump and we rushed out to find Lurk trotting down the hallway with a mouthful of dead mouse. Lurk was quite pleased with himself and obviously feeling vindicated after last week's mouse hunting failures. Ben then praised Lurk profusely, coaxing him to release his prize, so we could dispose of it.

April 30, 1999: Ben and I have been invited to Bar Harbor this weekend to help our friend, Marian, open her Victorian inn for the season. Each year, Marian hosts an opening and closing weekend for her friends. I am too tired to travel up today, so we decide to go tomorrow and come back early Sun. We have also postponed the restaurant review to Sunday. As we are getting ready for bed tonight, we hear a tremendous crash in the hallway. Lurk appears with another mouthful of mouse! I hope this is the last of the mouse invasion, although it has certainly revitalized Lurk. Senior Feline has found a new lease on life.

May 2, 1999: Ben and I had a quick trip to Bar Harbor. It was a warm Spring weekend and we enjoyed the drive. All of the trees were budding in that bright green color that you only see in early May. We had a nice visit with Marian and enjoyed her Sat. night party which always features lobsters caught by her son, Stephen, a local lobsterman. After a leisurely breakfast at Jordan's, Bar Harbor's local breakfast hang-out, Ben and I took the scenic route home through the rolling farm country of Searsmont and Union, a pleasant break from Route 1 traffic.

Tonight, Paul and Sue travel with us to Graziano's for the weekly restaurant review. Paul has called ahead for advance seating and when we arrive, we are taken to our table within minutes. We have decided in advance that we will order the Shrimp Scampi Calabrese, a wonderful entree that used to be on Graziano's menu years ago. It is no longer on the menu, but at our last visit, the waitress says the kitchen will make it to order.

Paul and Sue order the Scampi in white sauce, and Ben and I choose the red (marinara) sauce. The ingredients are the same: huge gulf shrimp, prosciutto, fresh mushrooms, black olives and roasted red pepper served on a bed of pasta. It is every bit as good as we remembered, but so huge that I take home half of it. I also delight in Graziano's salads. Though made with non-descript iceberg lettuce, the homemade Italian dressing is to die for. The dressing is also available in pints, quarts and gallons, and next time, I'll order some to go.

May 3, 1999: I am looking forward to this week with both excitement and dread. I am very excited about appearing on Jim Crocker's TV show tomorrow and speaking at the Living With Cancer Conference on Thursday, but I dread my lack of energy and stamina. I pray that I can hold up through this very full week.

I start the morning at Tom's office for my Aredia IV infusion. Cindy is in charge of my IV today and as usual, has it off and running right on schedule. Tom is on vacation this week, so Cindy checks my vital signs and makes sure I am not having any problems.

The results of my first set of blood tests for the clinical trial have come back. Cindy has faxed them to my doctors at Dana Farber. She gives me a copy of the test results and we look them over. Cindy is not familiar with the tests as they are not routinely ordered. They are immunity tests with blood components called natural killer cells, helper cells, suppresser cells, T and B cells, in addition to more familiar terms like lymphocytes. I am within normal ranges except for a lower than normal number of helper cells. Cindy says it looks like my immune system is healthy according to this report. I plan to call Chris from the cancer vaccine trial this week to see if I have passed this first set of tests.

After my treatment today, I attend two meetings. Not being able to choose between the Wiscasset Fair or the Wiscasset Area Guide Book, I foolishly attend both meetings and arrive home exhausted.

May 4, 1999: Today, I am appearing on Jim Crocker's Lunch Break TV show to promote the Living With Cancer Conference. I drive to Brunswick to pick up my friend and fellow support group member, Chuck, who will be joining me on the show. He plans to emphasize the importance of cancer education and promote the Conference workshops. He has attended nine previous Conferences and also served on the patient panel.

Chuck is a melanoma and prostate cancer survivor. He is nine years past his last recurrence of melanoma and three years since his prostate cancer. Chuck and I have known each other for many years as we are veteran members of the support group. We also share a unique bond in that we both have had more than one type of cancer. It is surprising how many folks have survived multiple cancers. We discussed this once in our support group, and interestingly, most people felt that recurrences of the same cancer were more worrisome than dealing with a new cancer.

When we arrive at WCSH, Jim meets us in the lobby. He remembers me from being on his show last year to talk about the Corvettes Conquer Cancer Tour. He first asks if my Corvette is in the parking lot, and then inquires how my Tour went. Jim is easy to talk to and he knows how to put his guests at ease. Chuck has never been on TV, but I sense that he will do just fine.

Jim takes us out to the studio and rigs up our microphones and earpieces. Pam, the Communications Director from the American Cancer Society shows up to watch and get a videotape of the show. The half hour show flies by quickly because commercials and phone calls cut into our time. Chuck is perfectly at ease, and we do our best to describe the Conference in the few minutes we have on the air.

Afterwards, Chuck and I enjoy a leisurely lunch at Village Cafe. I return home to practice my speech for the Conference. Ben and I are doing a few run-throughs with the slide show that will accompany my speech.

May 5, 1999: Today, I have a sore throat and fever, so I reluctantly cancel plans to attend a special dinner this evening for the Conference planners. I also call Chris from the cancer vaccine trial to see if she received my test results. She seems evasive and finally informs me that the trial has been put on hold for one or two months! It seems that the drug company that manufactures the antidote for the vaccine has temporarily stopped production of the antidote. She says my blood tests can be used as a reference, but I will have to be re-tested once the trial resumes. I plan to call Dr. Bunnell at Dana Farber next week to discuss what I should do in the meantime.

My daughter, Christy and my sister, Mary Ann arrive tonight. They are staying at the Snow Squall B & B and I see them for only a few minutes before I head to bed, praying that this cold or flu will hold off long enough for me to get through my speech tomorrow morning.

May 6, 1999: Conference day and I awake at 5:15 am. after a fitful six hours sleep. I feel horrible. Ben and I arrive at the Augusta Civic Center at 7:30 am. to set up and test the special slide projector which is operated through Ben's laptop computer. I am in a daze from the fever, but just seeing Christy, Mary Ann, Mamie, Sue and all of my support group members coming through the door, takes my mind off my ills.

Mamie tells me that this year's Conference has the most registrations ever. The huge hall is filled and unlike previous years, the Conference is called to order right on time. I glance quickly at Mary Ann and Christy and consider asking them to get me some water or a piece of fruit. I feel like I might pass out from weakness. Instead, I take a big breath and walk up to the podium. First, I make a presentation to Mamie for her years of service to the Conference. I look out at the huge crowd of expectant faces and feel suddenly energized. I breeze through the first 10 minutes of my speech, up until the first group of slides. Suddenly, Ben's computer freezes and won't advance the slides. I had just finished saying that Ben was operating the projector because he's the mechanical genius in the family. Since that particular group of slides features my support group members, I do the only thing I can think of and ask my support group members to stand and be recognized. Fortunately, at least 20 of them are in attendance. Meanwhile, Ben frantically fiddles with the computer and manages to get the slides moving by the time the support group members return to their seats. The rest of my speech goes flawlessly. By the time I finish, I am running on pure adrenaline.

Afterwards, and throughout the day, many people thanked me and told me it was a wonderful speech. Many of my readers came to hear my speech and to meet me in person, and I even signed a few autographs! But my greatest reward was knowing that my words were inspiring and comforting to those who are just beginning their journey into the unknown world of cancer.

- - -

(Click here to go directly to the next column)