AUGUSTA — Jan Barstow’s first day of treatment for her multiple myeloma cancer at the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care was also the then-new cancer center’s first day in operation.

Now, 10 years later, she’s a survivor, but still coming weekly to the cancer center for treatment. Her cancer is treatable, but not curable, the Winslow woman said. Often when she comes for her weekly six hours of treatment, she’ll bring some vegetables from her garden to share with staff and fellow patients.

Saturday, as MaineGeneral Health and about 1,000 cancer survivors, their families, caregivers and others celebrated the cancer center’s 10th anniversary, Barstow said she didn’t bring any vegetables.

“Today, I came with a smile,” she said shortly after she and her husband, Peter, got off a shuttle bus that dropped them off at the cancer center, where they and every other bus rider were greeted by two long rows of smiling, cheering greeters shaking pompoms and clapping and giving them a grand, cheerleader-style welcome.

Peter said the greeting was a moving experience. Jan said she had to get a tissue.

A few tears and lots of smiles were prevalent at the 10-year anniversary of the opening of the Alfond, which was also the annual celebration of Cancer Survivors Day.

Tim Wade, operations manager of Greater Augusta Utility District, whose son Nathan was diagnosed in 2015, at the age of 4, with Ewing’s sarcoma, which showed itself as a bump on his chest that turned out to be a cancerous tumor, said his son went through 40 weeks of cancer treatment, and extensive surgery.

“Today he’s a healthy little boy,” Tim Wade said, his red-headed son at his side.

But Wade started to tear up as he spoke about the other children at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital where Nathan was treated “for this horrible disease,” including a little girl who was being treated at the same time, who now has a terminal prognosis. He said he was moved by the girl to seek, with others, to get every community in Maine to issue a proclamation raising awareness of childhood cancer. He and others also put up gold ribbons in numerous locations around Augusta, to help raise awareness.

“I ask that everybody that is able to find a gold ribbon, hang it on your door or at your business, and show these kids you’ve got their back,” Wade said.

Debbie Bowden, organizer of the event and administrative director of Oncology and Infusion Services at the cancer center, said cancer has no boundaries and can strike old, young, rich and poor.

She noted, however, reflecting a theme of the event, there are numerous things cancer can’t do, including that it can’t shatter hope, can’t destroy confidence, can’t kill friendships, can’t silence courage and can’t quench the spirit.

Chuck Hays, president and chief executive officer of MaineGeneral Health, said a goal of the late Harold Alfond, who donated about $7 million to help build the cancer center, was making the treatment center the best cancer center in New England.

“We are here because we believe fervently that you deserve the best care anywhere, right here in the Kennebec Valley,” Hays told the crowd gathered in a large tent outside the cancer center. “Our goal, of course, is that we wouldn’t be needed at all. But when you or your family do need us, we’re here. We’re here with you.

Bob McCarthy, of Augusta, who is retired after 40 years in law enforcement, said he is a lung cancer survivor because of the successful treatment he received at the Alfond center. He said cancer didn’t stop him from entering a new phase of his life, doing volunteer work, at the cancer center.

Dan Bahr, a patient navigator who helps patients at the cancer center, is a cancer survivor himself; but on Saturday, he mostly wanted to talk about what a hero throat cancer patient Sandra Greenside, of Newport, is. He said she is known for giving pep talks to other cancer patients to encourage them, even though it can be difficult for her to speak because her tongue was removed as part of her treatment. He said she is an inspiration to other patients.

Several therapy dogs were on hand Saturday to greet visitors, including Freedom, an 11-year-old golden retriever who comes every Friday when its owner, Elaine Atwood, of Waterville, doesn’t have to work, to the cancer center to visit patients.

Atwood said her mother died of cancer when Atwood was just 11 years old, which she said is a source of motivation for bringing Freedom in to cheer up cancer patients. She noted Freedom loves doing it, too.

Some 40 vendors and organizations were set up for the event Saturday, most of them health and wellness-related, including the American Cancer Society; the Maine Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association; Jackson Laboratory, which does genetic research at the cancer center; and the Pen in Hand Writing Circle.

Muriel Fish, of Smithfield, who started the writing circle, which meets from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays at the cancer center, said the group gathers to write, socialize and have a respite from treatment. She said the writing efforts aren’t specifically about cancer, though it is a topic that does come up in their discussions and writing.

“We just have fun getting together. We find a lot of common ground,” Fish, who is being treated for cancer at the center, said of the group writing sessions.

Bowden said the hope is Cancer Survivors Day will do at least three things — celebrate survivors, provide education about resources, and provide opportunities for patients and survivors to network, “so no one has to go through this alone.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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.

filed under: