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Cancer survivors picnic in the rain

June 01, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

It was cramped and sticky under the too-small tent, where hundreds of people sought refuge from the rain Sunday afternoon during Washington County's annual National Cancer Survivors Day picnic.

Organizers estimated the rain kept about a third of the expected 625 people from showing up for the four-year-old event, moved to Hagerstown Municipal Stadium this year.

Persistent showers ruined plans to tack on a free Hagerstown Suns game after the picnic lunch and short program.

But rain couldn't dampen the bright spirits of the many cancer survivors - like Hagerstown resident George Ferraiuolo - who'd come to celebrate life with their families, friends and caregivers.

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"It's always very special for me," said Ferraiuolo, 33, who discovered he had a brain tumor 11 years ago after a nightime seizure.

Doctors were able to remove a portion of the tumor in an initial surgery at Washington County Hospital, he said.

Since then, Ferraiuolo has traveled to Baltimore for treatment, including experimental surgery in 1996.

The surgery - now approved by the Food and Drug Administration - had no side effects and seems to be working, said Ferraiuolo, who got a clean bill of health two weeks ago.

Coming to the annual picnic with his family gives him a chance to see people he knows through the local cancer survivors' support group and find out how they're doing, he said.

Ferraiuolo, a registered nurse at City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., said he's thankful for every day he has and tries to share his positive outlook with other cancer patients.

He said he tells them to make every day a special day by including something they enjoy doing, like going to the park or shopping mall.

"You've got to live every day to the best," he said.

The annual picnic has always been a fun opportunity to see old friends and meet new people, said Bettiejean Grout, 75, of Hagerstown, who thought it was a nice idea to couple the picnic with a baseball game.

Grout was first diagnosed with colon cancer seven years ago.

Doctors later found and removed more cancerous growth during gallbladder surgery, she said.

Most recently, they found and removed a cancerous ovary, Grout said.

"I'm doing great. I'm a survivor," she said.

Edna May Gladhill, 75, of Ringgold, said she feels a special bond with the other cancer survivors she meets every year at the picnic.

Gladhill, who was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago, said she hopes to convince others to do whatever their doctor deems necessary if it means they'll make it through.

"I'm a fighter," said Gladhill, who feels that having a breast removed was well worth a longer life.

Jean Breeden, 61, of Boonsboro, said she's thankful for every day she has had since she discovered she had a cancerous brain tumor two years ago.

This was her second survivors' picnic, she said.

Each year, she said, she has learned a lot from talking to other cancer survivors.

"It's a wonderful, wonderful thing," Breeden said. "Other people can support you, but no one really knows other than the ones that had it."

The event was sponsored by the John R. Marsh Cancer Center at Robinwood Medical Center, Hospice of Washington County, Washington County Health System, Y-Me of Cumberland Valley and the American Cancer Society.

The Hagerstown Suns were scheduled to play the Charleston, W.Va., Alley Cats.

For information on local cancer support groups, call Betsy Lang or Carol Antoniewicz at 301-665-4650.

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