Cancer Survivors Day a medley of events, fun
By Craig Crosby firstname.lastname@example.orgStaff Writer
AUGUSTA — a tent full of cancer patients may seem an unlikely place to find laughter, but only if you think of treating cancer as a battle against a disease.
"Cancer is really two diseases. It’s physical and emotional," cancer survivor and humorist Scott Burton said during Saturday’s Cancer Survivors Day at MaineGeneral’s Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care. "You can’t fight either one with less vigor.
"There’s never anything funny about cancer, but there’s always a single, profound humor that flows throughout life."
Burton’s riotous approach highlighted the 12th annual survivors day, which welcomed cancer survivors, their families and those who treat them to take part in fun, food and games, including alpaca encounters and pumpkin painting for children and horse rides and educational exhibits for adults.
"Cancer Survivor Day brings together all the work we do throughout the year in caring for patients and supporting them and their families," said Debbie Bowden, director of nursing, who has organized most of the cancer days. "It’s become a real passion for me."
The day brings together people at all different stages of their journey with cancer, including those recently diagnosed to those who have been cancer-free for years.
"Sometimes it’s good encouragement," Bowden said.
One of the more encouraging stories belongs to Ken Bernard of Winslow. Diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2003, Bernard has been cancer-free for more than a year.
"when you’re first diagnosed, you’re knocked for a loop," Bernard said.
He said he quickly moved beyond the feelings of dread, however, and never again lost hope after that first day.
"I’ve never been told the end is in sight," Bernard said. "I’ve never had a defeated feeling."
Many in Bernard’s condition are ultimately defeated, however. he credits his rebound to the drug Zevalin.
"I’m a lucky, lucky man — blessed," Bernard said. "when the doctor told me that I was cancer-free I said, ‘Excuse me, I’m gonna scream.’ It was quite a feeling."
"He’s a miracle," Bowden interjected.
Peter Piston of Farmingdale is on the other end of his journey. Diagnosed with cancer in February, Piston recently completed his 43rd radiation treatment.
"Humor is half the battle," Piston said. "Laugh and the world laughs with you; snore and you sleep alone."
If laughter really is the best medicine, than Burton’s high-energy delivery provided quality treatment. during a presentation that lasted roughly 40 minutes, Burton described his own battle with cancer, the treatment for which included bone grafts from a cadaver.
Burton joked about losing his hair as a result of the chemotherapy treatments.
"After four months, I no longer qualified as a mammal," he said.
Burton said he enjoyed the diverse therapies and classes he was able to enjoy during his cancer treatment.
"I realized the only place I could get as much extra education as my cancer center was prison," Burton joked. "That’s where I’m going next."
Burton encouraged everyone, whether afflicted by cancer or not, to enjoy every morsel of life.
"as far as I can tell, the worst disease is forgetting we’re alive," he said. "That’s the one that kills us multiple times each day."
Craig Crosby — 621-5642
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