Fort Kent ~ Living with cancer presents more challenges than anyone could ever imagine. At Northern Maine Medical Center’s (NMMC) second annual cancer education event held on October 15th, Francoise Paradis, President of the Board of Directors for the Paradis Fund, opened the event with a history of the Edgar J. (Guy) Paradis Cancer Fund and the story about how her brother, Edgar, or Guy as he was more commonly known, a cancer patient himself, came up with the idea to fulfill a goal to help others experiencing and dealing with all the challenges of surviving a cancer diagnosis. His goal was to ensure that financial assistance would be available to family members and significant others so they could accompany a cancer patient from the St. John Valley to a treatment facility outside the valley. He recognized that patients dealing with cancer should not have to be concerned with financial matters during such difficult times and that the focus should be on healing. Since 1978, nearly one million dollars of assistance has been provided by the Fund to nearly fifteen hundred local families.
The half day event sponsored by NMMC, and held at the Lakeview Restaurant in St. Agatha, featured several speakers who presented topics such as: the importance of nutrition, the benefits of journaling, resources for newly diagnosed patients and tips on cancer prevention. Anna Cannan, Registered Dietician, spoke about the importance of good nutrition during cancer treatment to: help fight fatigue, maintain body weight, improve strength and energy, boost the immune system to reduce the risk of infection and manage treatment related side effects. She emphasized that a weight loss of as little as five percent of body weight can cause reduced response to cancer treatment. Participants were provided free recipe booklets and protein drinks for to take home.
Andrea Daigle, Master Social Worker, spoke about the benefits of journaling. She shared some of her personal experiences with journaling and said, “There is no right or wrong way to do it. Journaling can be a poem, a drawing or random thoughts about worries, hopes and fears.” Daigle said journaling reduces stress levels by providing an avenue to process feelings and clarify thoughts. Dustin Damboise, Social Worker, highlighted the resources available to new cancer patients and provided an overview of the welcome binder that all patients receive at the beginning of their journey. All presenters were also available at informational booths throughout the program.
Perhaps the most compelling speaker was cancer survivor, Betty Dumond, who shared her personal experiences about her own journey. She described the first hand pain and the emotion of learning she had cancer. Through three rounds of cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery, she said, “I never questioned why me. I just went on; taking each day one at a time and taking every punch I needed to take in order to get better.” The room of misty eyed attendees fell silent while Betty shared the ups and downs of her journey through not one, not two but three separate episodes of cancer diagnoses. To the amazement of the crowd, she remained positive as she spoke of her experiences and how the support of her family, friends and employer as well as her faith, helped her through the journey. She said, “My balance is not what it should be and my handwriting is not always good but life is good. When I’m sick and I don’t feel good though, I always wonder, where are you hiding now?” She said she feels blessed that she no longer needs to take any medication and that believing in that ‘something better’ exists, helps her to take one day at a time and appreciate what she has today.
The program closed with Dr. Silwana Sidorczuk, Board Certified Family Medicine Provider from the Acadia Family Health Center, who provided the latest facts in cancer prevention strategies and early detection. Alain Bois, NMMC Chief Operating Officer and planning committee member said, “It was a great event again this year with moving and informational messages from all of the presenters.” Robin Damboise said planning has already begun for next year’s program which will be held on October 21, 2017.
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