"It's hard to believe we have been here 10 years," Keith Murdock, Trinity Health System director of community relations and development, said in his welcome to the many cancer survivors and their caregivers at the Survivorship Dinner held at the Rose on Oct. 20.
The dinner was held to celebrate the success of those who took cancer by the horns and beat it. And judging from the many happy faces in attendance, they were celebrating in style.
Teresa Kropka, a wonderful vocalist I knew in her very young years, performed "I'll Never Leave You." She explained that it was a song by Rascal Flatts and told the audience it could pertain to someone in their life who has helped them through hard times.
Jackie Hayes, a cancer survivor and a supporter of her son, Mark Clark, a cancer survivor, gets a hug from Dr. Belen Perez-Vargas.
Shirley Lisk, a motivational and inspirational speaker for 20 years, tickled the funny bone of survivors and caretakers.
She holds workshops on different topics, including "Jest for the Health of It."
She allows the gift of laughter to permeate the room, challenging and enlightening the audience as they experience the positive effects of humor and laughter, it was noted in the program. I liked her hairstyle and makeup.
I think I will keep Shirley's motto of a "boomerang joy policy" in mind. She said that just as a boomerang comes back when thrown out, joy will come back to you when it is thrown out.
Keith asked the survivors to stand and then be seated as their years of survival were announced. There were quite a few with more than 20 years, and one lady stood proudly until more than 40 years was announced.
Just as a cure for cancer gives a patient many more happy birthdays, there was a young cancer survivor in the audience. I believe they said that she was 12 years old, and all joined in singing "Happy Birthday."
Lamont and I were seated with some really great people. There was Shawna McCoy, no relation to us but the daughter of Jackie Hayes; Mark Clark, Jackie's son; Lee Clark; Norma and John Keyser; and Sherry Hodgkiss and Mary Ann Davidson, who was great friends with Margaret Pizzoferrato, our friend from Lunches with Love.
I have been with Jackie on different occasions and she can be a real barrel of fun. She was dressed like a witch for a Red Hat Halloween party once and decided to kiss the mayor when he was presented to us on a Farm Bureau bus trip. She also looks good for her age and acts much younger.
Sherry Hodgkiss came over after the dinner and presented me with her cupcake, saying it was for Ozzie. She reads my column and knows about our terrible terrier. I apologize, Sherry, one of Ozzie's owners (and that would be me) confiscated the cupcake instead. I can't resist white cake with white frosting.
Sherry Matthews and a daughter - she has five beautiful girls and I can't remember one from the other - were at the dinner. I remember a time when Sherry was really ill from treatment, and it does my heart good to see her looking quite healthy and doing volunteer work at the Brightway Center.
Seeing Sister Pauline Herbert, Trinity Health System women's health educator, always gives me a lift. It is like looking into a beautiful rainbow after a storm.
Lamont got a big hug from Helene Moncman, American Cancer Society patient navigator. She was the Harrison County Relay for Life coordinator when we became a part of its committee.
As Ed Florak, a cancer survivor said, "Nobody knows what it is like to have cancer in your body. There are rough days but it makes the good ones so much sweeter."
Actually, Lamont was my inspiration when we learned of his cancer and on through to his recovery. He had been in a cancer prevention study program for several years and was sent to a urologist, as had been the practice each year. We were not even worried when he was ordered to have biopsies.
It was right before the Jefferson County Fair in 2005, so he put off going back for results until after the event, as he helped me out in rounding up people to take pictures and running errands.
Lamont was in the doctor's office quite a long time and still I was not worried, which I guess was good. Even when he came out, his face didn't tell me anything.
As was our plan each doctor's visit, we would stop at Perkins for something to eat. (I try to get out of cooking whenever I can even though I love to do it.)
After we were comfortably seated, he said three words I will remember forever - "I have cancer." Just as the waitress ambled over to our table with a big smile on her face, I started crying. She took one look at me, spun around and said, "I'll be back later."
My husband was consoling me at a time when he needed my support. I did get better at accepting the fact that WE could beat this, and it has come to be.
The surgery brought our family together at the hospital. Darin even cleaned up after his dad when he was ill and threw up after the procedure. Probably something neither would want me telling but I just illustrate here that people step up when it is necessary.
We became involved in both the Jefferson and Harrison county cancer relays, and it has been a great feeling to give back.
Jackie Hayes said something at the dinner that I thought was quite thought-provoking: "It's not as hard to have cancer as it is to see your child have it." I want to change it to "see your husband have it."
As I looked around at the group seated at the survivor dinner, I thought how great it was of Trinity Health System, Tony Termana Cancer Center, Images and the American Cancer Society of Jefferson County support groups to give back to those who had been through so much and to the caregivers who suffered each step along the way with their loved ones.
Thank you and may God bless you.
(McCoy, a Smithfield resident, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and the Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)