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Event gives hope, support to cancer survivors
Vivian Varner, director and vice president of the Shades of Pink Choir, sings a solo Saturday at the Northeast Georgia History Center during the Harvest of Hope event.

Pink was the fashion statement of choice Saturday at the eighth annual Harvest of Hope.

Hundreds of cancer survivors, patients and their family members gathered at the Northeast Georgia History Center for a day of information, affirmation and a few laughs, presented by the Longstreet Cancer Center. All had a common bond.

"To me, we’re all survivors, and we’re all family. And we’re all for the same thing — to find a cure for cancer," said Linda Halsey. She underwent treatment in 2005, and her husband recently was diagnosed with cancer. "This helps both he and I encourage each other to get through each day. It lets you know you’re not in this journey alone, and sometimes you do feel like you’re alone."

Attendees heard from Christine Clifford Beckwith, a nationally renowned author and founder of the Cancer Club, which uses humor to confront the serious concerns of cancer patients.

"Laughter ... is a great poke in the eye to the adversary that cancer patients face every day," said Beckwith, who sprinkled her presentation with cartoons that looked at the lighter side of battling the disease.

Longstreet Cancer Center physician Anup Lahiry said his patients draw on conflicting emotions in their personal battles with the disease.

"I think what starts the fight is the fear of death, but what keeps it going is the love of life," Lahiry said. "Fear can jump-start you, but you have to have something to love to keep going."

Longstreet Center physician Tim Carey spoke of "survivorship" — the journey from living with cancer to living through cancer to living beyond cancer. There are 10 million cancer survivors in the United States, up from 2.5 million in 1970, due in large part to better early detection and improved treatment techniques.

When treatment is over, sometimes that’s when a new set of challenges arise, he said.

"You’re finished, and the doctor says, ‘I’ll see you in three months,’" Carey said. "This can be very scary. How do you get back to normal? And what does normal mean after this experience?"

Above all, survivors wrestling with the fear of a reoccurrence "shouldn’t sit and suffer alone," he said.

Nine-year cancer survivor Claudine McClusky came to Saturday’s Harvest of Hope attired in a pink shirt, pink baseball cap and tennis socks stitched with pink ribbons.

"You’ve got to have a good attitude," McClusky said. "When you find out you have cancer, you can’t give up. You’ve got to keep going."

The Harvest of Hope, she said, is "something good."

"I see different people going through the same thing I did, and I can talk with them," she said. "There’s also a lot of people who go through cancer who don’t come to this, but I think they should."

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