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Stories abound at Celebration of Life picnic for cancer survivors

June 02, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Cancer survivors and family members release butterflies at the annual Celebration of Life picnic Sunday at The Improved Order of Red Men Tribe 84 grounds along Lappans Road in Williamsport.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — Douglas Davis said he didn’t used to wear suntan lotion or a hat when on the job finding underground utilities for Miss Utility.

“I do now,” said the one-year cancer survivor, who had stage-four melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

Davis attended Sunday’s Celebration of Life picnic, an event for cancer survivors at The Improved Order of Red Men Tribe 84 grounds along Lappans Road.

Approximately 1,300 people attended the picnic, which was sponsored by Meritus Health and the John R. Marsh Cancer Center, said Andrea Garnand, event coordinator and a technical supervisor at the cancer center.

Davis, 53, of Hagerstown, said he’s attended the picnic before, with his late mother, who had a kidney removed because of cancer.

On Sunday, he attended the Celebration of Life with his wife, Tina, and their granddaughter, Callie King, 3.

Bud Leatherman, 75, of Hagerstown, was attending his fourth survivors picnic with his wife, Shirley.

“It’s wonderful,” said the six-year survivor of prostate cancer.

Leatherman said he appreciated the work the organizers did to put on the event, which included fried chicken, cake and raffles.

Toward the end of the event, the survivors were asked to stand in circles, and each was presented a butterfly in an envelope. Except for a few early escapes, dozens of butterflies were released together after a reading of the poem “On the Wings of Hope.”

Several of the butterflies landed on the nearby pavement and grass before taking off or being scooped up for another liftoff.

Butterflies were the theme of a quilt Hazel Neibert made to benefit the cancer center.

“I just wanted to do something to give back to John Marsh Cancer Center,” said Neibert, 75, of the Huyetts Crossroads area.

Neibert was diagnosed with lymphoma twice — in 1998 and in 2003, she said.

She’s been coming to the picnic since her first diagnosis.

“I wouldn’t miss a year. It means a whole lot to get together with my friends,” she said.

Neibert was sitting with her husband, Dick; fellow 15-year cancer survivor Janet Jones, 75, of St. James; and new friends Bob and Martha Hart of the Clear Spring area.

Martha Hart said she is a two-time survivor of breast cancer. She was first diagnosed 13 years ago.

Jones said she enjoys “a chance to be with everybody who’s been in the same situation you’ve been in.”

“You don’t feel alone anymore,” Jones said.

Hagerstown resident Kevin Spielman held his finger to a prosthesis in his neck that allows him to talk and said, “I don’t want people to smoke. That’s how I got cancer.”

Spielman, 49, said he is a three-year survivor of larynx cancer.

He said he smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes daily for 30 years.

Lois McFarland, 65, who lives west of Hancock, was attending her first Celebration of Life picnic.

McFarland said she was diagnosed with stage-three ovarian cancer in September 2011.

“I think I’m doing fine,” McFarland said.

McFarland described the picnic as “fantastic.”

“Everyone has a story. ... Everyone’s just beautiful. The people are fantastic because you can relate to what they’ve been through and how they’re doing,” she said.

“They’re so healthy. Years ago, people would never have survived so much,” McFarland said.

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