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Monday, March 8, 2010

Celebration brunch will honor survivors

Stacy Milbouer

Imagine sharing a meal with dozens of people who have in common the most important experience of their lives.

For the second year in a row, a group of cancer support and care organizations in the Nashua area will sponsor the Cancer Survivor Celebration Brunch. Everyone who has or had cancer and their loved ones are invited to attend.

The free event will be held at the Nashua Crowne Plaza on Sunday, March 28, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and will include an elegant meal, evocative presentations and priceless bonding with people who may be strangers in the technical sense of the word but are kindred spirits in every other way.

This year’s keynote speaker is Dover resident Ronald Bye, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 20.

“I had only been married 11 months,” Bye recalls. “I had two surgeries and a year of chemotherapy. I was given a 50 percent chance of living two years and a less than 10 percent prognosis of a five-year survival.”

That was 32 years ago.

“Fortunately, I have been extremely healthy in the years since,” Bye said. “No recurrences and rarely sick at all. Not even colds.”

But for 30 of those years, Bye said he was silent about his cancer experiences. “I was ashamed about my disease and all it’s implications. At the time of my illness, it simply was not something you talked about, and I did not have the courage to change that.”

Two years ago, Bye, inspired by people like Lance Armstrong and advocates like those at the Testicular Cancer Resource Center, finally found his voice and, in fact, became a cancer advocate. He chairs the Cancer Advocates Coalition of New Hampshire.

During the brunch, Bye will talk about his journey through cancer diagnosis, treatment and the process of surviving, persevering through treatments and, ultimately, to self-awareness and healing.

“We never know just what we are capable of until we are forced to endure hardship and move beyond,” he said, adding that he found the road to healing through giving back to the cancer community.

Peter Ames of the American Cancer Society of New Hampshire will also talk about health care reform and comprehensive cancer plans at the event.

In addition to the brunch and speakers, there will also be a photographer at the event who will be taking free portraits of cancer survivors and their loved ones.

“We’re doing this because it’s important to celebrate those who have beat cancer and who are fighting cancer – their struggles, their victories and the fact that they’re still here,” Bye said.

Nancy Collins of the New Hampshire American Cancer Society, another organizer of the event, said it’s also a time to recognize the caregivers of cancer survivors. “Without them, the journey would be much, much harder.”

The American Cancer Society; St. Joseph Hospital; Southern New Hampshire Medical Center; Nashua Regional Cancer Center; St. Joseph Home and Hospice Care; Home Health and Hospice Care; Southern New Hampshire Oncology Nursing Society; Radiation Oncology Associates, PA; Elekta Inc.; and Against All Odds are sponsoring the event.

If you have or had cancer and you and your loved ones would like to attend the celebration brunch, call 1-800-210-9000, ext. 2. Space is limited and pre-registration is required, so call early.