If there’s a group of people who knows a thing or two about weathering a storm, it’s the Cancer Survivors’ Association.
Rain was still trickling from the sky by the time the group gathered for its annual picnic late Sunday afternoon underneath a pavilion in Tom Tudek Memorial Park.
The assortment of subs, fruit salads and pastas laid out on a table toward the rear of the proceedings were provided courtesy of the survivors and their support systems, all gathered under the umbrella — sadly figurative, given the drizzle — of National Cancer Survivors Day.
“You’re a survivor from one minute after the diagnosis,” Linda Lochbaum, president of CSA, said.
Never miss a local story.
You’re a survivor from one minute after the diagnosis.
Lochbaum and company are equipped to help with every minute that follows. In addition to hosting monthly support group meeting for those fighting or touched by the disease, the group puts together what they call Tote Bags of Hope.
Available upon diagnosis at Mount Nittany and Geisinger medical centers, the bags contain items meant to ease the transition into the cancer trenches — including an organizer to help keep track of medical appointments.
“When someone hears the diagnosis of cancer, they hardly hear anything after that,” Lochbaum said.
For Carol Billet, it wasn’t so much her hearing as it was her back that was giving her problems.
Doctors found a tumor on Billet’s spinal cord. During an operation to remove the growth, a mistake left her paralyzed from below the waist for nearly a year.
Lochbaum became a vital ally to Billet while she was recovering in the hospital, making sure that she lacked for nothing.
It’s always good to have somebody to talk to. It always helps.
“She was always there to help me,” Billet said.
The same applies to Georgia Fleming. She’s been diagnosed twice — first with large cell lymphoma and then again with a brain tumor.
Treatment for the latter left her blind for a few months.
“They told me the one time I had months to live and the second time I had three weeks,” Fleming said.
Having someone like Lochbaum to share her experiences and questions with made the load a little easier to carry.
“It’s always good to have somebody to talk to. It always helps,” Fleming said.