The Dempsey Center, located in Lewiston, Maine, held their annual National Cancer Survivors Day event on June 7th and it was a hit. Every year they come up with a different theme, this year was "Follow The Yellow Brick Road." The evening consists of socializing and refreshments, along with some live music by Jim Merrill, followed by a few guest speakers, before choosing 2 out of the 5 workshops to attend.

Jessica Bowden

Ashley Bowden

Ashley Bowden

Introducing this year's guest speakers was Glinda the Good Witch, known on a daily basis as Maureen Higgins the Cancer Health Outreach Educator for the Dempsey Center. She discussed the Wizard of Oz and how each of the characters relates to different aspects of being diagnosed with cancer.

Ashley Bowden

One of this year's guest speakers were Dr. Eleni Nackos, a medical oncologist. She opened by talking about how far we have come in cancer research and advancements in treatment. The rates at which people pass away from cancer continue to decline. She praised the patients and the caregivers and the Dempsey Center. She compares getting diagnosed with cancer to feeling like Dorothy in the tornado. Your whole world flips upside down and it's a spiral of treatments and scans and appointments and so much more. However, you're not alone. You have a support system to help guide you to the end. You may get ambushed by monkeys on the way, whatever those monkeys turn out to be, but always remember that in the end, the witch is defeated.

Ashley Bowden

The other speaker was Chris Parrish, founder of the Purple Iris Foundation, and last years recipient of the Amanda Dempsey Award. The award is presented to a cancer survivor every year who stands out in their passion for helping those affected by cancer in Maine. She was funny and kind and talked about how we are all a miracle. Being a survivor is to live. She quoted David Weaver who said, "A survivor is anyone living with cancer or anyone who has been cured of it." The minute you are diagnosed, you are already a survivor. You are still here, fighting, living.

Ashley Bowden

You can watch both speeches here, I highly recommend you do; get the experience of listening to them talk and also hear the two remarkable stories that Dr. Nackos talked about.

The first workshops my family and I went to was "Unmasking the Wizard," which was healing mask art. The class was run by Kerry Irish an oncology counselor and psychosocial service manager. This was an expressive art class. You got to pick out a blank mask and decorate it however you see fit. They had so many different kinds of materials you could use. It was interesting to look around and see what other people were doing and what came to their minds. For me, it was Pride Month. I chose a purple mask because it's my favorite color. I decided to start by making small rainbows below both of the eyes. I tried thinking of a few different ideas, I had a small pile of stars, different stickers, but nothing really stuck out to me. In the end, I settled on a couple of rainbow stars and another large sticker. My sister, however, got a bit more creative than, me adding some string around the eyes and a few more marker designs. I'm a little jealous of how nice hers turned out.

Ashley Bowden

Jessica Bowden

After finishing our art, we made our way over to the "Lollipop Kid Kafé," a healthy cooking class by Stephanie Buswell, Linda Merchant, and another volunteer, all of whom are chemotherapy nurses at St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston, Maine. The treats that they made were delicious. We were shown how to make a pineapple banana milkshake, roasted vegetables, and a yogurt dip. They talked a lot about healthy eating and simple things you can make. They also talked a little bit about their work and shared some stories and it was all very nice. They were lovely women and I really enjoyed the workshop. It's always nice to find some quick and easy treats that are good for you.

Ashley Bowden

Ashley Bowden

The other three workshops going on that I didn't attend were; "Tinman's Gentle Heart Yoga," a gentle yoga class led by Tish Caldwell, "Auntie Em's Lotions," which taught you about herbal salves and lotions and how to make them led by Judy Donnelly, and "Where Bluebirds Fly," which was acupressure led by Kathleen Wing. All of which I'm sure was just as amazing and I heard some people talking about them who attended and how much they enjoyed them.

We managed to jump over to the Healing Garden to have our picture taken together, and I love how it came out, and the fact that it was a Polaroid.

My sister and I jumped out into the hallway during the last little bit of the second workshops to have a little fun taking pictures by the yellow brick road.

Jessica Bowden

Perhaps my favorite part was having my picture taken with Dorothy (Juli Kane, who does imaging at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine) and the Scarecrow (Morgan Nichols, a Client Services Specialist at the Dempsey Center). I also got to take a picture with Karen Page, the Cancer Resource Coordinator at the Dempsey Center and also the facilitator of Living Well, the cancer support group I attend.

Jessica Bowden

Jessica Bowden

Jessica Bowden

By the end of the night I was happy and had an amazing time. The Dempsey Center never fails to do great things. So here's to them, for all of their support and for making a difference. Here's to many more years of Cancer Survivor's Day.