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Cancer survivors gather to celebrate the holidays

December 5, 2011

But cancer can sure ruin all of that. So for the staff of the Cancer Center of Davidson County, part of Wake Forest Baptist Health, it’s a pleasure for them to enjoy an evening with their clientele to focus on fun and fellowship instead of treatment options and test results.

“It’s a tradition to gather with patients each holiday season,” said Dr. Nathan Streer, an oncologist with the cancer center. “And as the cancer center grew, we’ve outgrown our space at the cafeteria in the hospital.”

This year, the center held its dinner in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church on West Third Avenue in Lexington. What started as a small gathering between the center’s staff and about 15 patients has grown into an annual event that drew about 200 cancer survivors and family members for a meal and night of entertainment and prizes.

“It’s important to see patients outside of the clinical environment,” Streer said. “We spend so much time with them there, it’s a pleasure to get to spend some time with them as friends.”

Glenda and Ken Johnson have been coming to the dinner for several years. They are both cancer survivors, Glenda being a 10-year survivor of breast cancer and Ken having survived non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for the past 12 years. After spending one Christmas in the hospital, the couple appreciates the holiday season a little more each year.

When her husband first got sick, Glenda Johnson was there to take care of him. And when he was on the mend, Ken Johnson was there to take care of his wife, just in time before she was treated. Glenda Johnson also lost a brother to cancer in 2003 and another brother was just diagnosed recently and will be a patient at the cancer center.

“(The cancer center) is such a wonderful place,” Glenda Johnson said. “They help you through some of the most private parts of your life. We just love them.”

“You just take it one day at a time,” Ken Johnson said.

Colon “Tommy” Clodfelter, a retired Lexington Police officer, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1998. He was grateful to be able to receive many of his treatments at the cancer center in his own town, in addition to some in Winston-Salem.

“I’ve never been sick in my life and I started having problems and they did some tests and diagnosed it and did surgery on me,” Clodfelter said. “They took care of me. They went out of their way and took extra, extra, extra care to understand you.”

Mary Miranda Clark has helped put together the dinner for several years. As a volunteer for the cancer center, as well as being a melanoma cancer survivor herself, she aims to make the dinner special each year.

A year ago, Clark said local musician Mario Escobar had been at the cancer survivors dinner as a guest with his wife, Margaret, who was diagnosed with the disease. After the event, Escobar told Clark he would love to perform at the 2011 dinner. And he kept that promise.

Escobar, who has performed with Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Paul Anka, B.B. King and at Carnegie Hall along with Donald Trump’s wedding reception, entertained guests all evening, singing (he can sing in five languages) and playing the saxophone and flute. He played songs by the Bee Gees, Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine and Julio Iglesias before ending the night with “Amazing Grace” and Sinatra’s “Fly me to the Moon” and “My Way.”

Metha Fortune came to the dinner in honor of her husband, Jesse Fortune, who wasn’t feeling up to coming as he was recovering from his third treatment for lymphoma since 2003.

“Cancer is a big word. And then, I didn’t know anyone who had it,” Fortune said. “But they were wonderful. They didn’t rush anything.”

Wake Forest Baptist Health – Lexington Medical Center president Donny Lambeth praised the local cancer center for providing great oncology services right in Lexington.

“Each one of you is my hero. You are courageous and inspirational,” Lambeth told the crowd. “It’s hard, I know that …. But hope lives forever. Being with you tonight has been an encouragement. We may not have a cure yet, but we’re closer today than we were yesterday. You’re all heroes, all the time.”

Seth Stratton can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 226 or seth.stratton@the-dispatch.com.

Article source: http://www.the-dispatch.com/article/20111205/living/312059997&tc=yahoo


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