CanSurmount hosts annual potluck supper

Matt Gardner
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Cancer survivors shared tales of perseverance while enjoying good food and fellowship on Monday as the Prince Albert chapter of CanSurmount held its annual potluck supper.

Taking place each year on National Cancer Survivors Day, the event serves as a celebration for those who are now cancer-free and a source of inspiration for those currently undergoing treatment.

“This happens right after Relay (For Life) and it’s always held here in Prince Albert the first Monday in June … It’s just for cancer survivors, their friends and their families and support people just to come and celebrate with us,” Prince Albert chapter co-ordinator Donna Christopherson said.

“When we were asked tonight about the different number of years that people have survived, we have some that are over 40 years, some three years, some 17 years. So they’re all ages and all walks of life.”

For more than 30 years, the local chapter of CanSurmount has helped support residents who have been affected by cancer as well as their families and friends.

Many of the guests present at Monday’s potluck could attest to the positive role played by CanSurmount in helping them get through their battles with cancer.

One of them was five-year cancer survivor Dawn MacKenzie, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in October 2009.

“When I was diagnosed with cancer, Fern Lloyd, who was a member of CanSurmount, got a hold of me,” MacKenzie recalled. “She was kind of like my lifesaver.”

Throughout her grueling cancer treatments, MacKenzie would often come home to find that Lloyd had left her supper -- a much-appreciated gesture at a time when chemotherapy left her too sick to even think about cooking.

MacKenzie’s gratitude made talking about the subject an emotional experience.

“Fern was always there,” she said. “I’d come home from chemotherapy in Saskatoon and there’d be something hanging on my door, and then after I finished my chemotherapy, I did 25 rounds of radiation. I joined CanSurmount at that time and so I had a whole lot of support from all these people at CanSurmount.

“I think I just kind of edged … into CanSurmount, through my journey of going through chemotherapy and radiation and all these ladies being here for me.”

“I just don’t know what I would have done without them,” she added. “They got me through many days when I was really low.”

Another cancer survivor present at the potluck was local musician Wilf Savisky, who provided live entertainment along with fellow guitarist and singer Allan Rybchinski.

It was 14 years ago that Savisky was diagnosed with cancer on his birthday, setting the stage for an extensive period of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

These people are really tremendous when it comes to support of people that have cancer. Wilf Savisky

He found CanSurmount through a referral and soon found himself the subject of much attention throughout the long period of recovery.

“Hardly a day would pass that somebody didn’t phone me to see how I was going,” Savisky recalled.

“I really feel that without the help of the people from CanSurmount, I likely wouldn’t be here today.”

Eight months ago, Savisky was diagnosed with cancer for a second time -- a development which has not stopped him from performing music regularly at CanSurmount events.

“We do a lot of these things … These people are really tremendous when it comes to support of people that have cancer,” Savisky said.

“Once you have cancer, it’s always in the back of your mind -- am I going to get it again or if I’m going to do OK.”

But one does not have to have been diagnosed with cancer for it to dominate the mind -- a fact Savisky’s musical partner is well aware of.

“My youngest daughter, she’s a one-year survivor right now from breast cancer,” Rybchinski said. “I have a son-in-law not that’s battling colon cancer, and I just lost an aunt and an uncle … In a space of 13 months … both husband and wife both died of cancer.

“So my family history has lots of cancer … it’s always in the back of my mind.”

With his daughter involved in a similar cancer support group in North Battleford, Rybchinksi echoed many of Savisky’s sentiments.

“She said exactly what Wilf said … If it wasn’t for that support group, she would have had a major battle on her hands,” Rybchinski noted. “But these people pulled her through it.”

Following the potluck, CanSurmount will be taking a hiatus until October, when regular meetings start up again.

But Christopherson noted that volunteers will continue to be busy in the interim.

“The volunteers continue to do all the followup, like the home visits, the hospital visits, wherever we can help in some way to support cancer patients and their family -- whether they’re newly diagnosed or with treatment, transportation, those kinds of things -- just whatever we might be able to support cancer patients.”

Anyone seeking information on CanSurmount may contact Christopherson at 306-764-8756 for more details.

Organizations: Prince Albert

Geographic location: Saskatoon, North Battleford

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