Cancer survivors gather to celebrate life

June 02, 2003|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - There were many anniversaries to remember during the National Cancer Survivors Day, most of them very personal.

For Marlin Ott, 51, of Greencastle, Pa., it's been 25 years since he was first diagnosed with cancer.

"Nineteen years this December," said Ruth Claudy of Chambersburg.

For Jean W. Mellott of McConnellsburg, Pa., she heard "that dirty word cancer" eight months ago.

For Earl J. Doyle Sr. of Fayetteville, Pa., it has only been a week.

"We invite cancer survivors whether just diagnosed or some years out to come out and celebrate life," said Shendelle Clapper, an oncology social worker with Summit Cancer Services.

"This is our 10-year anniversary for this in Franklin County," Clapper said of the Sunday luncheon. In past years, the event usually has been celebrated with a picnic at the cancer treatment center at Chambersburg Hospital, but it was moved to King Street United Brethren Church because of cool temperatures and threatening skies.


Family members and caregivers also are invited each year because "cancer affects everyone, so we want everyone to be able to come out and celebrate life," Clapper said. About 200 people attended the luncheon.

It was also a celebration of the quarter of a century Dr. Michael Cashdollar, a medical oncologist, has been with Chambersburg Hospital.

"The Lord gave him a gift and between him and the Lord, I got a second chance at life," Claudy said. Given that second chance, she decided to help others as a volunteer for Relay for Life and other American Cancer Society programs.

"They helped me out years ago" when she and her husband needed help paying for her medications, Claudy said of the society. "Now, I'm paying back."

"One thing I do love is my country ... and I'm very proud of the patients I've seen these 25 years," Cashdollar said as he was presented an American flag by Jake Crider of Shippensburg, Pa.

"When I came here, there were approximately 30 drugs available" to treat cancer, Cashdollar said later. Now the number is more than 100 and the side effects they produce are much less severe.

Ott has been diagnosed with cancer two more times since he was first found to have testicular cancer 25 years ago. In 1998, doctors found lung cancer and on Feb. 12 they discovered a brain tumor. He underwent surgery the next day.

His wife, Sharon, spoke on his behalf to thank Cashdollar, but it wasn't because he was unable to do so himself.

"I've had recent tests and I've had a clean bill of health," he said, but cancer packs an emotional as well as physical impact.

"That's why the wife had to do it for me ... I just would have lost it," he said.

"My father had prostate cancer. Both of my older brothers had prostate cancer," said Crider, whose company, Crider Meats, supplied food for the luncheon. He was not surprised when he was diagnosed in March 2000.

Cancer, however, did not claim the life of his father, who died of a heart attack, or his older brothers, who have been in remission for years, Crider said. He now has a clean bill of health.

"Dr. Blum and her crew were outstanding," he said of Julia Blum, the director of Summit Cancer Services.

There have been tremendous advances in cancer treatment over the decades, but faith plays an important role for many of these survivors.

"When I heard that dirty word cancer, I thought I'd go through the floor," said Mellott, 83, who has twice been widowed and lost a son to an accident when he was a young man.

"If it hadn't been for my God, I couldn't have gotten through this," she said.

"They told me there's no cure for me," said Doyle, who recently was diagnosed for the second time with cancer.

"I believe in God Almighty or I'd have been dead years ago," he said.

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