GREENSBURG — There was no shortage of courage and tenacity Monday night in the main conference room of the Hampton Inn. To be sure, there were a few stories of loss and disappointment scattered here and there, between all the optimism and the prevailing sense of thankfulness, triumph and joy.
Above all though, the evening’s overarching story was one of hope as a community of survivors sat down over dinner to celebrate life at the 2014 American Cancer Society (ACS)/Decatur County Relay For Life (RFL) Cancer Survivor’s Dinner.
Decatur County Memorial Hospital (DCMH) hosted and sponsored Monday’s dinner, along with Aspen Place, Doll’s Landscaping, Levenstein’s Carpet, the Hampton Inn and the Indiana Knights of Columbus.
DCMH Director of WorkWell Occupational Health John Wilson found himself playing ringmaster as well as MC for the evening’s festivities as organizers “sent in the clowns” — and the jugglers — for the event’s “Under the Big Top,” circus-oriented theme.
Regional a cappella singers ‘In Harmony’ filled the evening with soulful, spiritual anthems and melodies, taking center stage for the majority of the event. Their song list included such favorites as “Amazing Grace,” “Wild Blue Yonder,” “Anchors Away,” “America the Beautiful,” “Near to Thee,” “Sentimental Journey,” “God Bless America” and “I’ll Fly Away.” More than once, attendees entreated the group for just a few more songs and audience members were still entreating when the singers at last ceded the stage to Cutie, Miss Kitty and Patches.
Earlier, the three clowns had helped Wilson open the event and, in addition to performing a faux-magic/comedy act, they also helped hand out the evening’s door prizes.
Throughout all the music and fun, though, the event never lost sight of its focus on survival.
Whether they’d survived the dreaded “big C” for 25 years, 10, 5 or 1; whether they were in remission, diagnosed cancer free, or in the middle of battling the disease, everyone had a story to tell.
Cancer survivor Ruth Ann Smith offered the gathering a few words about her own cancer journey. “When I was diagnosed,” she said, “it felt like I was joining a club I didn’t want to be part of. … There was a whole new vocabulary to learn; a whole new schedule to follow, and all these lovely new medications and procedures and a new list of things to worry about.”
Smith welcomed anyone who’s battled and survived cancer or who’s currently battling it to become involved in DCMH’s cancer support group, with meets from 5 to 6:30 p.m., the second Tuesday of each month, at the hospital.
She challenged the audience to become involved in the group, telling them that, even if you think your story isn’t particularly inspiring, one never knows where or to whom he or she will give encouragement, inspiration or hope to someone else struggling with cancer.
“No matter where you are in your journey,” Smith said, “I know you can be a help to yourself and to someone else.”
DCMH Vice President of Patient Care Diane McKinney spoke of the 30-year history of the hospital’s Cancer Care Unit. McKinney was among the first nurses in the department and briefly reminisced about her time there.
“It’s very inspiring for me to be here with you today,” McKinney said. “Cancer has touched my family the same as it has touched many of yours.”
McKinney proceeded to tell the story of her sister’s battle with cancer, who was given 6 months to live after being diagnosed with cancer 6 years ago. That same sister recently got to see her son graduated college, McKinney said, and is still living cancer free.
“I applaud you all,” McKinney said in closing, “for your strength and for the beauty you give to everyone you touch.”
DCMH Cancer Care Manager Cindy Daihl echoed those sentiments in closing the dinner. “We honor and applaud you,” Daihl said. “You have heard those awful words and you are out on the other side.”
The 2014 Decatur County Relay for Life kicks off at 2:30 p.m., with the “survivors lap,” June 28, at the Decatur County Fair Grounds. The walk/race will run continuously until 10 a.m., June 29. For more information, call Vicky Emberton at 812-593-1550.