Wife won’t let her cancer keep Milan home

Posted Nov. 06, 2009, at 11:05 p.m.

Faced with making a choice between the two loves of his life, his wife Marie and the sport of candlepin bowling, it was an easy choice for Brewer’s Charlie Milan III.

He would not go to Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the 25th World Team Candlepin Bowling Tournament.

Marie, who has battled pancreatic cancer for almost two years, didn’t go along with the plan.

“I think we’ve had a tough year and a half and it may get worse. I think he needs a break,” she said.

The Milans learned this week that Marie also has cancer in her thyroid, but that didn’t lessen her conviction that her husband should attend the tourney he founded with Canadian Kansas Snow. The event draws the best bowlers from New England and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

“Marie may have another treatment in Boston, but she told them ‘make sure it’s not until after the Worlds,’” Charlie Milan said. “That was Marie’s biggest concern. She said ‘look, I’m going to live another week, you know that.’”

Charlie Milan, 73, is still an active bowler, and will be part of the USA East team, but will bowl on a limited basis as he did last year. The 24-time Maine state champ can still reach a 120 average, but has taken on more of a leadership role for the team and organizes the 24-team tourney which features 13 U.S. teams and 11 from Canada.

“He started this all with Kansas Snow 25 years ago. Kansas had kind of fell by the wayside and Charlie’s been running it ever since,” Marie Milan said. “It’s kind of his baby. He’s very proud of that tournament. I think he really should go, I’m afraid for him to go, but he should.”

Three of the Milans’ children live in Brewer and one plans to stay each night with their mother while their father is away.

After her cancer diagnosis in February of 2008, Marie Milan had surgery to aid her digestive system. She then underwent a three-day trial treatment in Boston of high voltage radiation.

“They said they could either cure it completely or stop it in its tracks,” said Marie, who was given two to six months to live after her initial diagnosis. “Well, they did stop it in its tracks, it hasn’t spread, but it’s getting real active again.”

That treatment and subsequent chemotherapy have helped Marie, but she said the two biggest factors in sustaining her have been her family and friends.

“They’ve all been wonderful,” she said. “My senior bowlers have been great. All I’ve had to do is go there and they’d all hug me. That’s helped me get through it.”

She has also kept an active schedule at the Bangor-Brewer Lanes, which she and her husband of 49 years own and operate.

“Since May, I’ve been going every day,” she said. “Everyone’s like family there. It gives me something to take up my mind so I don’t think about [the cancer].”

It has also reinforced a philosophy she’d like to pass on to others.

“Just remember every one you meet, be nice to them because you don’t know the load they may be carrying,” she said.

Charlie Milan and other team members will leave for Halifax on Sunday as the tourney opens with a singles knockout on Monday. The team competition begins on Tuesday with each team bowling three, three-string matches a day until the playoff rounds begin on Friday with the top team in each of the 12-team divisions receiving a bye to Saturday’s semifinal round. The final is also held Saturday.

The tourney alternates each year between Canada and Brewer where the team of Maria’s Sub of Scituate, Mass., captured the title last year after it had been won for six straight years by a Canadian team.

Milan’s team features top Maine bowlers Shawn Morrison and Nate Nealey as well as a talented Massachusetts contingent of Chris Sargent, Gary Carrington, Dave Goodwin, Dave Richards, Don Richmond and Mike Morgan.

Several other teams from Maine will also be competing: Vacationland Bowling Center of Saco (Scott LaPierre, Donna Shaw, Jeff LaPierre, Steve Latch, Gene Gallagher, Matt Pickeral, Brian Athearn and Tim Matero), Down Town Jewelry and Engraving of Rockland (Eric Denault, Mark Currier, Ray Athearn, Dave Glover, and Jason Kaler), Newport Entertainment Center (Walt Bowden, Mark Currier, Shannon Witham, Harold Bown, Jim Killam, Shane Tripp and Scott Sirois) and Colonial Lanes of Westbrook (Jeff McLain, Scott Burnham, Elmer Tibbitts, Joe Scribner, Brian Purdy, Jason Sparks and Kevin Sparks).

The tourney awards $10,000 to the first-place team, $5,000 to second, and $2,500 each to the next two teams.

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