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Cancer survivors appreciate life

February 16, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN -- There were no speeches, no testimonials. There wasn't even a slide show of past events during Monday night's Valentine dinner sponsored by the American Cancer Society of Washington County.

Instead, the approximately 50 dinner guests enjoyed the food and each other's company at the Maugansville Ruritan, knowing such an occasion might not have been possible without up-to-date information, early detection and advances in medical treatment of their disease.

"My cancer was discovered during a routine checkup," said Richard Fouke, a five-year prostate cancer survivor. "It was a big surprise when I was diagnosed."

Fouke said he benefited from the support of members of The Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown, and the staff and volunteers of the local cancer society as he underwent 42 radiation treatments to rout his cancer.

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"My advice to others is to always take care of your health," Fouke said.

A two-year survivor of breast cancer, Melinda Tolley of Williamsport came to the dinner with her daughter, Lisa King.

"I was pretty down at first," Tolley said. "The cancer society reached out to me -- it meant so much to meet other survivors."

Tom Miguel had his prostate cancer surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore last year around Easter. His diagnosis was also a complete surprise.

"I was the first in my family to get it," Miguel said.

He and his wife, Sandi, received a letter from the Cancer Society about the free dinner.

As he approaches his first year as a survivor, Tom Miguel said he appreciates how fragile life can be.

"Early detection is the big thing," he said.

Tom Miguel is a member of a group of cancer survivors called Man to Man, which meets once a month.

Tom Sweeney, who with Trish Rowland is co-chairing this year's Relay for Life in June, spoke briefly at the beginning of the evening.

"We know what you have been through," Sweeney said. "This is one of those ways we love to give back to you."

This year's goal for Relay for Life is $145,000.

Relay for Life is a national event to raise awareness and funding for cancer research and services.

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