Valentine’s Day is Monday, and Don and Dora Winslow will spend it together, as usual.
It will be their 32nd Valentine’s Day as husband and wife.
There may or may not be flowers and candy involved. There may be the swapping of sappy cards with cut-out hearts and lace — or not.
A romantic dinner for two at a fancy restaurant?
But I can promise that there will be a whole lot of love involved and more commitment than many will ever experience — and bravery, bunches and bunches of bravery.
There will be a suite involved, but not the kind you might find at a luxurious hotel.
Don and Dora will spend at least part of their day undergoing chemotherapy at the Lafayette Cancer Center in Brewer.
Yes, both of them.
“They said they have a couple of suites, or rooms where two people can be treated at once, and they said they thought they could accommodate us,” Don Winslow said Thursday, “Isn’t that romantic?”
I talked to them both this week, and they still laugh easily, especially at themselves — Don tells the story of how he shaved off his hair to avoid the drama of losing it during chemo treatments only to learn that his type of chemo doesn’t generally involve hair loss — and they are filled with huge amounts of humility and gratitude.
“It’s not ‘Why us?’ as much as it is ‘Why not us?’” Don said. “Everybody has their burdens, and this journey is certainly showing us just how much love and support there is out there in our family, our friends and this entire community. We are so very humbled by that, I simply can’t explain it.”
About eight years ago at the age of 45, Don was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological disease that results in tremors and weakness.
At the time, he was the chief of the Bangor Police Department and was the picture of health, running 15 to 20 miles a week and beginning to make long-range plans for his and his wife’s retirement.
A year later, Dora was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She was treated and eventually declared cancer-free, and Don continued with his Parkinson’s treatment.
In 2007, Don retired from the department and was able to spend summers in a camper the couple purchased and put on their property on Sebec Lake.
Then, this past November, Dora, 52, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She underwent surgery in which her uterus, appendix and a portion of her colon were removed, and she braced herself for an aggressive round of chemotherapy.
Just a few weeks later, Don was diagnosed with neck and head cancer.
Dora is in the midst of undergoing 18 chemo treatments. Don has radiation every day and has a chemo treatment every three weeks.
Hence, Monday they are both scheduled for chemo.
There will be no chocolates for Don. His taste buds have been blasted by the radiation treatment, and he no longer can taste anything.
Of course, this all sounds rather grim, but in reality, the prognosis for both of them is actually quite good.
The cancers are curable.
It’s just that times are a bit tough right now.
Dora’s sister, a nurse, has taken a leave of absence from her job in Brazil and has moved into their Hermon home.
Friends and strangers have rallied around them.
A fundraiser to benefit the Winslows will be held beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, at Morgan Hill Event Center in Hermon. For tickets and information, call 848-5083 or 848-7100.
And on Friday, March 4, there will be a Don and Dora Winslow Benefit Gala at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer.
There will be a dinner, a silent and a live auction, a raffle and dancing to the former Bangor Police Department Band.
Corenna O’Brien, an organizer of the event, has been struck by the generosity of countless businesses that have donated dozens and dozens of items for the auction.
“It’s a testament to the kind of people that Dora and Don are,” she said. “They’ve always given so much of themselves to this community, and now people are ready to help them.”
The theme of the event, which will raise money to help with the couple’s medical expenses, is “Pay it Forward.” Any money left over will be used to help the next person in need of some help.
You can get tickets and information by calling 944-4089.