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Annual brunch takes aim at cancer

November 06, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - It's a friend. A mother. A daughter. An uncle.

Cancer touches everyone.

"Everyone knows someone who has cancer," said Jim Shifler, who coordinated the Washington County chapter of the American Cancer Society's annual brunch Sunday.

More than 700 people were expected to attend the event, in its 17th year, at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Hagerstown.

Shifler said the brunch raised about $26,000 last year, most of which will be spent locally for the American Cancer Society's programs and research.

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Community Manager Cathy Beckley-Thomas said funds will be spent to provide transportation for people to get to and from cancer treatment. Another program, called Look Good Feel Better, will use the money for women who are going through cancer treatment.

"It's good to know the money is going to a good cause," said Joni Elliott of Hagerstown.

Elliott and her friend, Mira Olson of Boonsboro, said they were at the brunch having a "girls' day out," but also helping support a local charity.

"Cancer affects so many people," Olson said.

Elliott said her mother, grandmother and uncle were all diagnosed with cancer.

Sarina Hamilton of Hagerstown said she was at the annual brunch for the first time Sunday. She lost her mother two years ago to breast cancer.

"She survived with it for 25 years," Hamilton said.

Miss Maryland 2006 Brittany Lietz was at the brunch as a special guest. Lietz was diagnosed in 2005 with stage two melanoma, the most serious of common types of skin cancer, she said.

Since being diagnosed, she has partnered with many national organizations, including Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation, the Skin Cancer Foundation, the American Cancer Society and the Skin Cancer Coalition of Maryland.

Lietz said she believes repeated sun exposure and tanning beds are responsible for her cancer. She has had 25 surgeries to remove lymph nodes and tumors, she said, and is in remission.

Lietz said she gets checked every three months for new moles or changes to moles on her body. She advocates that everyone receive regular checkups so that cancer can be detected early and treated.

Susie Michael of Hagerstown said her employer pays for her to attend the brunch each year. Sunday was her fourth time there.

"It's a social thing," she said. "You see people you haven't seen since the year before."

Michael said it was a timely event for her. She is scheduled to have her first mammogram in three years today.

"I didn't realize it had been three years," she said.

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