BANGOR, Maine — A local couple, both cancer survivors, told their stories on Sunday afternoon to a group of fellow cancer survivors and their families and friends at the annual Cancer Survivor Day.
Bangor resident Constance McCarthy said she was completely surprised when she learned she had breast cancer a decade ago, but her husband, Dan, said there was a history of prostate cancer in his family and he expected to hear his diagnosis seven years ago.
What he didn’t expect was hearing he had another cancer, chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML, last July.
“That knocked my socks off,” he said. “It really shocked me.”
To treat his most recent cancer, Dan McCarthy took a battery of drugs, and the most recent one, Sprycel, has worked.
“It’s a miracle for us,” said his wife.
The couple said they have survived cancer because of prayer, support from friends, their three children and their families, and support from and research of nearby CancerCare of Maine.
After being diagnosed, Constance McCarthy said, she did her own research into breast cancer, spoke to family and friends, “and I listened to all my doctors — there was a lot of them — who all told me I was going to be fine,” Connie McCarthy said. “Ten years later, here I am.”
“We are both surviving,” she said later.
The rain somewhat dampened but in no way halted the afternoon events on the Bangor Waterfront, which included other cancer survivors, live comedy and music and free food, hosted each year by Eastern Maine Medical Center and CancerCare of Maine at the Lafayette Family Cancer Center on Whiting Hill in Brewer.
Between 150 and 200 cancer survivors and their families and friends braved the weather to show up for Sunday’s event, said organizer Nadine Bullion, support services manager for CancerCare.
Those who hear the words, “you have cancer,” are survivors, she said. “We have new survivors here and ones that are 20-plus-year survivors.”
The free food at the survivors celebration was provided by Jeff’s Catering of Brewer and by John’s Ice Cream Factory in Liberty.
Twin daughters of Marlene Nightingale, a radiation therapist at CancerCare, have been dishing out ice cream at the annual event for a decade.
Torrie and Lauren Nightingale, 13, wore volunteer T-shirts on Sunday that they were given when they first gave of their time at the cancer survivors day event at age 3.
“When they got those shirts they were dresses,” their mom said proudly. “They fit now.”
Torrie Nightingale said that a decade ago, she and her sister were not big enough to scoop out the ice cream, so “we were handing out spoons.”
During the event, Oncology Support Foundation of Orono was given the 2010 Community Support Award for its efforts to support low-income patients.
Betty Bowers accepted the honor and said the foundation is a grass-roots organization founded in 2005 by cancer survivor Mart Lapin of Orono to provide direct support to cancer patients and their families in eastern and northern Maine.
“Research works, and prayer works, along with support from family and friends,” said Dan McCarthy. “We are survivors.”