AUGUSTA — Hallowell’s Jean Davenport sat in the center of the second row of seats for the Cancer Survivors Day 2015 celebration at the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care.

One finger sported a new pink sapphire and diamond ring, a gift from her husband, Donald, to commemorate her fifth anniversary as a cancer survivor.

Reaching the five-year mark reduces the odds for cancer recurrence. “It’s one of the milestones with this type of cancer,” she said, adding that she must continue to return for checkups for another five years.

Hundreds of other cancer survivors, their families and staff members from the cancer center filled the chairs under the large white tent, visited various booths and strolled in and out of the cancer center itself and around the grounds off Old Belgrade Road next to MaineGeneral Medical Center.

The theme for the day, “Love & laughter … wicked good medicine,” was introduced by Debbie Bowden, administrative director for Oncology & Infusion Services at the center. The event is put on by MaineGeneral Health.

Davenport, now 62, underwent surgery on Sept. 9, 2010, opting for a double mastectomy after getting a diagnosis of cancer in one breast. Reconstruction was started immediately as part of the same operation.

“Once Dr. (Cameron) McKee got done, Dr. (Donald) Schassberger started. It was absolutely great,” she said. “I had a great team. I went back to work after three weeks.”

Davenport, who was a clerk at Kennebec County Superior Court at the time and now works at the Capital Judicial Center, also had strong support from her four children and nine grandchildren. “I had to keep going for them. I’d go to chemo treatments and go straight back to work.”

Davenport now knits prayer shawls for cancer patients and each year assembles a large team to participate in MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Walk for Hope that raises money for the hospital’s Breast Care Program. This year the walk is set for Oct. 17.

Also in the tent on Saturday, listening to laughter and rousing applause for Tim Sample’s anecdotes about the small but weird aspects of Maine life and Dr. G. Richard Polkinghorn’s barbershop quartet, were Ethelyn and Gwen Christianson, mother and daughter from Sidney.

Both women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past year. Ethelyn Christianson, 70 and retired, had a mastectomy last November and is on oral medication for the next five years.

Gwen Christianson, 39, has very short hair, a result of shaving her head recently. She is undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the cancer center prior to surgery and continues to work full-time at Sam’s Club. “It’s been rough, but I can do it,” she said.

Ethelyn Christianson had recommended her oncologist, Dr. Julia Moukharskaya, to her daughter.

Carl and Sylvia Swanson of Winthrop attended the celebration too to mark Carl Swan’s surviving prostate cancer. He was diagnosed in 2002 and had his prostate removed. “I’ve had zero PSA since, no comeback,” he said. Elevated levels of a prostate-specific antigen can indicate prostate cancer.

He regularly attends a support group, part of the Maine Coalition to Fight Prostate Cancer, that meets at the cancer center 6-8 p.m. on the last Tuesday of each month.

Comedian Sample too shared his story of living with cancer in the form of leukemia. He was diagnosed with it in 2004 and has been in remission for the past seven years. “I was lucky to get a very early diagnosis,” he said.

He told the audience to use humor to help aid perspective in tough times. “Laughter is wonderful medicine,” he said.

Davenport attends the cancer survivors’ day every year, grateful for the treatment she received and willing to help others facing treatment after a cancer diagnosis. “When I retire from work, I’m going to volunteer here,” she said, standing in the shade of the center’s front portico. “I’m still ready to go, and I’d like to do more if I can.”

As she spoke, Barbara Wheeler of New Sharon walked by with Boone, a therapy dog. “We come to the cancer center every week,” Wheeler said. “We volunteer and spread good cheer to all the patients.”

Inside the center, Deb Violette of Augusta had her “Free ME from Lung Cancer” booth. She has promoted and supported lung cancer research since she was diagnosed with it 17 years ago, and now that she is retired, she is doing it full time.

Most recently she received a $15,000 grant to support early lung cancer detection and is hoping to expand it to get more.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.