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Lincoln County News
September 17, 1998

"LifeLines" My journal about living with cancer

by Sandy Labaree

This journal submission describes our Tour appearance at the National Corvette Museum's 4th Anniversary Weekend in Bowling Green, KY. It is a weekend filled with speeches and emotional moments.

September 7, 1998: After the Corvette show in Carlisle, PA, Ben and I made a quick two day side trip to visit my parents in New Jersey and his parents in Philadelphia. We then spent one night with my sister, Peg. These few short days of family time went by quickly, and before we knew it, we were back on the road, headed to the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY. On Labor Day weekend, the Museum hosts their largest event of the season. We are scheduled to be there for five days.

Ben and I traveled to Bowling Green with our two Corvette friends, Karen and Mike, from the Central Jersey Corvette Club. We met them for breakfast in Somerville, about 20 miles from Peg's house. They were towing their 1995 Corvette Pace Car in an enclosed trailer. Because towing through the mountains and hills takes longer, we broke the trip up into two 400 mile days, stopping in Clarksburg, West Virginia one night and arriving in Bowling Green the following day. It was nice to have company for this leg of our Tour.

When we arrived at the Museum on Thursday, Sept. 3 to set up our booth display, it was over 100 degrees and humid. Marty, the Marketing Director, had not specifically assigned us to a vendor space outside. He inquired if I would like to set up our table inside the air conditioned Museum. Duh! We took him right up on his offer and never regretted it as the temperatures hovered around 100 degrees all weekend. The few times I went outside, the heat was so unbearable, I could barely catch my breath.

The Corvette Museum invited me to make two speeches. The first was at the Saturday luncheon for Chevrolet celebrities, honored guests, and lifetime members of the museum. The second was as guest speaker at the Sunday morning non-denominational service. In the remarks I made at the luncheon, I described the purpose of the Tour and acknowledged Corvette Mike and others in the Corvette business community who have supported us. I also shared the story about a very special donor, Rachel.

Rachel is nine years old. I met her at the Black Hills Corvette Classic in South Dakota. Her dad, Dennis, runs Valley Corvette, a Corvette supply business. He had paid Rachel $100 to work at his booth for this week-long event. Now that's a hefty allowance for a nine year old!

During the event, Rachel stopped by my table and saw the collection can with my picture and story. She asked if I was sick and if donations would help me get all better. I told her that donations would help a lot of people get better. Rachel then took her $100 out of her pocket and tried to give it to me. I refused it saying that it was too much for a little girl, and maybe twenty-five cents or a dollar would be just fine. Rachel shook her head "no" and handed me $50, insisting I take it. She told me, "I don't need the money. My Mom and Dad buy me everything I need. Dad just bought us a new house and my room is so full of stuff, nothing else will fit. Besides, my Mom says that until Dad finishes off the basement, there's no more room for my junk." Wouldn't it be wonderful if more folks could be like Rachel, who give so generously and who give from the heart. That's what it will take to find a cure for cancer.

I later wrote a letter to Rachel's parents and thanked them for raising such a fine little girl. They have taught her to think of others, and to be kind and generous. I hope that by the time Rachel grows up, cancer will no longer be a dreaded disease.

My speech at the Sunday Service was designed to be an inspirational message. It read as follows:

"I thank God for the opportunity to be with all of you on such a glorious day. Eleven months ago, I wasn't so sure that I'd be standing here today. Last October, I learned that my breast cancer had recurred and spread. I was told that I was a Stage 4 patient, and my future was uncertain. This news was my second wake-up call.

Let me back track to say that I didn't answer my first wake-up call, which I received in 1994, when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery and chemotherapy. I admit that I was scared, but as soon as I had recovered, I went right back into my old routine of 14 hour days. Work and career were my goals in life. My marketing and advertising business, chamber of commerce activities, and volunteer work filled every minute of my day. I was always tired, running from one meeting or appointment to the next. I rarely made time for myself. While the doctors worked on restoring my physical health, I never made time for my emotional or spiritual health. I never answered that first wake up call.

Fortunately, God saw fit to re-dial me last October. The news that my cancer had spread blew me away. I knew that I had to re-arrange my priorities. I had to throw out my old road map of life, the map that contained only career paths and goals. This wasn't any easy task for a Type A person such as myself.

Through my long winter and Spring of chemotherapy and radiation, I thought about drawing a new road map. One with paths that would include time for myself, my family and my loved ones. It would celebrate humanity. With roads that would lead to not just my physical healing, but my emotional and spiritual healing. Roads that would eventually lead me to the goodness of God.

The first step that I took on this new path was to close my business. This was easy because I wasn't feeling well enough to run it. Secondly, I planned an enormous undertaking, the Corvettes Conquer Cancer Tour. I would travel across this country to spread hope and optimism to fellow cancer patients. I would promote awareness of cancer and raise funds for cancer research.

This Tour has been a mission for me. Not only am I helping others, I am helping myself. I am on the road to emotional and spiritual recovery. I have also learned to let go. I am now a partially reformed control freak.

I passed my first control test in May when, three weeks before leaving on the Tour, we lost our major sponsor, leaving us with no financial underwriting for the Tour, and no car. In my prior business life, this would have been a disaster. I would have canceled the Tour and spent precious months searching for a new sponsor.

Instead, something told me that it was alright to continue. An inner voice reassured me, "to trust and go". And so we found a used Corvette, left on this 4 1/2 month Tour and many folks have come forward to help us. The kindness and generosity of the Corvette community, my friends and total strangers have overwhelmed us.

Though we are using our DeLorme Atlas to get to every stop on this Tour, I am now following an invisible road map. My path is guided every step of the way. I am Following An Invisible Trail Home. The first letters of those words spell out the word FAITH. I urge you all to get one of these road maps. They are free.

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