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Cancer survivors, supporters gather at picnic

June 03, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WILLIAMSPORT

Grace Edlund of Hagerstown was diagnosed with throat cancer 16 years ago. That was one year before her husband, Murph Edlund, learned he had prostate cancer.

"We supported each other," the 82-year-old man said.

The Edlunds were among about 1,280 people who attended Sunday's John R. Marsh Cancer Center picnic for cancer survivors at the Williamsport Red Men Lodge. The 20th annual event was expected to draw 564 cancer survivors.

Irene Petrie, 58, of Greencastle, Pa., is a 10-year breast cancer survivor.

"You're always aware," she said. "Whenever they find a lump, we just take it out."

Petrie was at Sunday's picnic with her husband, Robert Petrie, who she said supported her throughout her diagnosis and treatment.

"I couldn't have done it without him," she said.

Her last surgery was in 2005, and Petrie said she appreciates everything much more now than she did before she was diagnosed with cancer.

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"On the drive here today, we noticed the beautiful trees. You just learn to appreciate everything," she said.

Her friend, Betty Slick, 73, of Hagerstown, is a nine-year colon cancer survivor. She said after beating cancer, she is no longer bothered by the "little things."

"You just want to be around positive people," Slick said.

Susan Lopp, administrative director of the John R. Marsh Cancer Center, said Sunday was the largest turnout in the picnic's history.

"People are surviving cancer longer," she said. "People come back every year."

Patti Koons, 78, of Halfway, said she is a 17-year survivor of colon cancer. After doctors removed 17 inches of her colon, the cancer never returned, she said.

Sunday was her first time at the picnic. Koons said she and her husband, George Koons, have stayed away in the past because they don't like to be around large crowds.

Dolores Kreps, 71, of Williamsport, was first diagnosed with breast cancer 23 years ago. The cancer returned for the third time late last year. She takes a small pill each day and said her health has improved.

"The pill is working," she said.

She was at the picnic Sunday with her husband, Larry Kreps.

Leslie Shirley, 77, of Hagerstown, said he is a five-year prostate cancer survivor. He was attending his first John R. Marsh Cancer Center picnic Sunday with his wife, Charlotte Shirley.

He said he underwent radiation treatments for prostate cancer.

"You're never rid of it," he said.

Teresa Downs, 51, of Silver Spring, Md., said she was in town visiting her mother, Hagerstown resident Evelyn Downs, and they decided to attend the picnic together.

Teresa is a two-year survivor of breast cancer and has been undergoing chemotherapy since February. Her last treatment is Wednesday.

"Then I'll start radiation," she said.

Evelyn Downs said it has been hard to watch her daughter go through the grueling treatments.

"I'm being supportive," she said. "(Teresa's) doing fine."

Sigrid Byers, 64, of Hagerstown, has survived breast cancer for more than three years, and said she couldn't have done it without support from friends and family.

"She's been my angel," Byers said of her friend Emily Webster of Hagerstown.

Byers' husband died of lung cancer nearly two years ago. She said she has some advice for those in a similar situation.

"Have a lot of willpower," she said. "Believe in God. Lots of prayers. I love life. I want to live."

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